Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Libertarian Ideas Make Great Campaign Slogans

I often hear from Libertarians that Republicans and more rarely Democrats like to heist Libertarian talking points when they’re running for some position or other. Some even mean it. Take Representative John Shadegg, for example.

"I personally believe there is no place in the federal government for a Department of Education. It is not in the Constitution. There is no mention anywhere in the Constitution that the federal government has any role in education. I believe that the federal government doesn't have a role in education. I have several members of my family, including my wife, who are teachers, who are not at all happy with the so-called No Child Left Behind bill, which I think has gone far astray from what it was even intended to do. And I would like to hope that at some point we could get the federal government out of the business of education altogether, and acknowledge that this is policy that should be decided at the state level."

He could’ve pulled that right off the Libertarian home page; it’s so basic to their platform. Republicans often campaign on small government, but rarely take it further than such generalities. Shadegg stops short of sponsoring legislation to abolish the Department of Education, but if he can be taken at face value and current indicators say he can, then that’s a surprising statement from a man trying to become the next Republican Majority Leader. Good for him. Although still the dark horse candidate, he certainly has conservatives singing his praises. With statements like that on education one can see why.

With every bill and every “reform”, the Feds create new laws that require new funding for education, much of it bureaucratic. Some efforts have tried to restore funding to the education side of the Department of Education, but they come up short. Shadegg is correct in that education should be an issue for state level and is one where local control definitely carries more weight. I applaud him for the gutsy statement and for one hope he makes it.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Property Tax Pipedreams?

I suppose one had to admit that the handwriting was on the wall that something would have to be done this year with property tax reform. I have to say, though, I never thought I'd hear a sitting Indiana legislator talk publicly about abolishing it.

Thursday, the House approved 97-1 the sweeping property tax bill (House Bill 1001), which not only abolishes the tax in 2009 but changes the way Indiana pays for child welfare by gradually shifting the costs from the counties to the state. The bill grants a one-time tax credit to help mitigate any property tax increases in this year's bill. That will cost an estimated $147 million at a time when the state is climbing out of a financial hole.

Property tax is a very sensitive subject in this state. The Democrats ignore the issue (because they see no problem) and the Republicans dance around it and try to pretend it's not there usually. However, given that, as the article in the Indianapolis Star points out, property tax is about to reach the "perfect storm" of higher government spending at the state and local level while reassessment looms this year. Combined, they will mean even more ridiculously high property tax bills for Hoosiers, and the legislatures, rightly so, feel we voters might take it out on them at the ballot box.

Of course, there's little chance these lightweights will have the courage to actually abolish property tax at this time. The move appears to be more political than anything. The measure has to pass the Senate and almost no one believes the Senate will budge on the issue. Still, it's a start, and yet another example of the Republicans taking a wildly popular idea from the Libertarians and at least parroting like they believe it.

Nobody likes to pay property tax and the likelihood of it going up yet again fills most of us, including me, with a great deal of dread. You expect a more fixed bill with a mortgage, but not when insurance companies and local government have anything to say about it. Property tax for local government is often seen as a "guiltless tax" because they always throw out "Well, how do you propose we pay for x or y then, hmmmm???? Explain that? If you can't, then shut up!!!" I wish I were exaggerating.

What I like to remind these feeders at the property tax trough is that that isn't exactly our job. In a representative government, we ask them to do that. We say, property tax bad, you fix. The proper response is not "tell us how" but "right away, absolutely, let's see what other states have tried or come up with some new ideas ourselves and we'll get back to you ASAP". Or, am I imagining that the duty of state and local government is to be responsible to the people? Am I simply dreaming that? Nope, this one looks like another nightmare, courtesy of the very people we put in to do this to us. Somewhat masochistic of us, wouldn't you say?

Friday, January 27, 2006

More “Phantom” Mexican Army Incursions

In Sierra Blanca, Texas, there is a story brewing of Border Patrol agents again mixing it up in a confrontation with a military-style border incursion. According to WOAI, yet another instance of drug-laden vehicles crossed north into the United States, only to be chased back to the border. From there, troops that appeared to be Mexican Army, armed potentially with a .50 machine gun on their HMMWV, threatened the border patrol agents while other individuals unloaded a stuck vehicle of its marijuana and then set it on fire.

Starting to sound like a broken record isn’t it? Regardless of whether these are Mexican Army or not, and personally given the corrupt nature of Mexico I believe they are, these are armed criminals crossing into our sovereign nation from another and threatening the peace of our nation.

I will admit that simply garrisoning soldiers on the border will do no good, because regular Army, even National Guard are trained to fight and kill and their regular duties would be more police-oriented with such incidents as this being the exception. However, having them available to be called on for such incursions, or at least air assets available would, I think be quite sufficient. Special units would be need, and due to posse comitatus would require an executive order to be put in place, but I think they would be quite appropriate and effective.

The only thing criminals like these respond to is violence. Violence is how they do business. These aren’t hippie pot smokers trying to move some stash into their hydroponics basement in El Paso. These are gangs such as MS-13. The only way organized crime changes hands is if the previous organization is decimated by law enforcement or was not as ruthless as their competitor. Drugs are the ultimate free market and we see very clearly the efficient killers that have been created as a result.

When I call for border control, these individuals are who I have in mind. Our drug laws opened this Pandora’s Box and the failure of the Drug War has only emboldened and strengthened the resolve of the new generation of traffickers. Requiring law enforcement to deal with this alone, even the Border Patrol, has failed. New measures must be taken, period. Guest worker programs and immigration reform will not stem the flow of criminals or worse into this nation. Only lead and fire will do that. I’m still waiting for anyone in power in this country to care.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

What's In A Name?

It has got to be the favorite word of the Left bandied around, but most likely very few know exactly what it means. Fascism is a word I've commented on before as being bandied about too "liberally", no pun intended, by the Left just about anytime a conservative policy is discussed or anything regarding our current president, hardly a hard-line conservative himself, is mentioned.

I saw this latest quote, though, and figured it worth at least a small mention on my humble forum. The comment is courtesy of Maya Jones, one of the myriad "volunteers" of the anti-war group "Not in Our Name".

"We're here today because abortion is a right, not a choice. As we come up against this Christian fascism that is condoned by our government, it is more important than ever for people to come into the streets and take a stand."

First, I'll step in it regarding this little social quagmire. Roe v. Wade was exceptionally bad case law, if not some of the worst, right there along with Plessy v. Ferguson. Rights are not established by the Court. They are either natural, agreed upon by society, and enshrined in our various federal and state constitutions as inalienable or they are civil and statutorily mandated by a legislative body. The Supreme Court, nowhere, even in their favorite case Marbury vs. Madison, is endowed with the power to create law or to interpret an emanation of a penumbra. We've discussed this before, though and may again. Do I know the answer to the question of abortion? I don't even begin to presume to think I do. Morally, I certainly know how I feel about it, but I can't say with any certainty how I would legally feel on it. I do think it's the right of the States, who have such power under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments, to decide the legality of such a question, though. Why do I think that versus the Supreme Court deciding? Let's briefly explore that.

Which, even among Leftists, would they rather decide this issue? Someone they had democratically elected or someone appointed and unaccountable to the electorate? My money's always on the legislative, or what do we have them for? If after Alito, say, two of the liberal Justices retire or pass and they are replaced with conservative justices who overturn Roe, then would the Left rather the legislatures handle it? Democratically elected legislators will always win in my eyes over a detached geriatric oligarchy, especially in such a sensitive issue. What Roe did was take the legislative power out of our hands and put it into those nine few pairs of hands. Was that just?

Ok, so I took a bit of a long stroll off the path. Let's backtrack over the lady's comment again...

"We're here today because abortion is a right, not a choice. As we come up against this Christian fascism that is condoned by our government, it is more important than ever for people to come into the streets and take a stand."

Well, we've pretty well shot the whole "abortion is a right" thing in the foot since the Supreme Court doesn't make rights or even find them hiding under rocks, not legitimately anyway. Christian Fascism, though, is an interesting compilation of words. Let's look at some basic definitions. First, the adjective Christian had two definitions I thought were rather appropriate.

1. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus's teachings.
2. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.

And now a general definition of fascism.

A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

Well, your typical anarcho-atheist who never kissed a girl and lives in a basement might view those as an accurately matched adjective and noun. I can certainly see where people like Ms. Jones might even believe that our current administration fits at least the fascism portion of the label. However, perhaps she should more carefully view the roots of the word from the Italian and German National Socialist movements. Neither of them was very Christian, Christlike, nor manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus. To attach the Christian label shows a certain ignorance or willful ignoring of history, a definite trademark of the Left.

And what, please, are people coming into the streets going to do? Petition their legislatures? Isn’t that a bit ironic? I would argue that authority is hardly centralized under a single dictator. Authority is certainly centralized under our monolithic federal government, so perhaps that qualifies. Its power has been used to force the Roe decision among a myriad of other liberal "innovations" on the rest of the nation in a, dare I say, fascist manner. Ms. Jones now weeps that the weapon the Left has so long wielded might be turned against them. Suffer the little liberals…

Stringent socioeconomic control and centralization of authority are all the rage among the Left, as long as that authority is wielded “In Their Name”. Racism in the form of Affirmative Action and Margaret Sanger's history with Planned Parenthood as well as suppression of anyone with an opposing viewpoint through public ridicule and even violent threats could also convincingly be demonstrated as the purview of the Left these days.

One more definition is of note, conservatism.

A political philosophy or attitude emphasizing respect for traditional institutions, distrust of government activism, and opposition to sudden change in the established order.

Isn’t that interesting? Could we entertain the amusing notion that, by this definition, Ms. Jones is advocating a perverse form of Leftist “conservatism”? The irony of that practically drips from my keyboard. Perhaps she and her ilk should revisit their current stand on the divisive issue of abortion, on several such issues, and examine which side of this argument, which side of fascism, they, themselves are on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Pork Barrel Over the Falls

In the wake of the Abramoff scandal in Congress, light once again is being shined on the corrupt nature of the professional system of lobbyists who currently populate Washington D.C. The system or the problem should in no way surprise Americans or have caught them unawares. For as long as big government has thrived in Washington, the professional lobbyist has fed off and strengthened the system by his presence. That one along with his brethren should try to push the boundaries of the current corrupt system was only natural and should have been expected. So here we are. What to do.

First, we should consider that the very nature of pork barrel spending is anathema to the Constitution. Such spending is about as unconstitutional as it gets and I challenge anyone to disagree with that point. Clauses like the Commerce, General Welfare, and Common Defense Clauses of the Constitution have been stretched past the breaking point to justify any and all manner of spending without originalist precedent, usually manufactured out of whole cloth. As the famous James Madison said in a matter concerning paying a charity to French refugees, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents....” The man often called the “Father of the Constitution” I should think would know the nature of what was written in that document. Pork barreling could be called the ultimate set of “objects of benevolence” to the constituents of Congress.

In an op-ed recently in the Wall Street Journal, John Fund further explained the thinking on this issue.

Public outrage is having some effect. Even a master pork-barreler such as Mississippi's Sen. Trent Lott now decries the federal highway bill for funding "museums and county roads" that have no national purpose. Some members are being urged by constituents to go back to the Constitution and ask what in it grants such authority in the first place.

Indeed, Thomas Jefferson recognized the dangers of pork-barrel spending back in 1796 when he wrote James Madison that allowing Congress to spend federal money for local projects would set off "a scene of scramble among the members [for] who can get the most money wasted in their State; and they will always get most who are meanest." While Madison did not adopt Jefferson's purist view, he largely agreed with it. In his last act before leaving the presidency in 1817, Madison vetoed a bill for federal financing of roads, bridges and canals. The man popularly known as "the Father of the Constitution" rejected the view of Congress that its general welfare clause justified the expenditure. He wrote that "such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms 'common defense and general welfare' embracing every object and act" imaginable.

It’s hard to say it better or more clearly than that. How, in light of any of this, does Congress find a position to justify such spending or other spending for that matter? Social Security, welfare and health care subsidies fall under this same heading. If the Congress is so eager to spend money on these things, let them attempt to amend the Constitution to do so, as is provided for in that document. Otherwise, they might be obliged to heed the warnings and admonishments of our Founding Fathers, lest they finally and truly ruin this nation for the rest of us and our posterity.

The answer to why they do not is quite simple. No one has ever believed such amendments would pass. Eventually, they would be defeated and the entire structure of Washington would come crashing down into the swamp. How the federal government does business, its massive power, would falter. I doubt you’d see such a selfless act from anything other than the purest angels, and none of those can be found in our nation’s capitol. So, again, what do we do? We can’t replace these men and women with men and women who believe in original intent, not enough that it will matter. As proof of this currently, accept that this platform is very much at the heart of Libertarian philosophy. How many Libertarian Congressmen are you aware of? Sadly, I know of none.

Lenin and his ideological descendants here in the United States correctly surmised that incremental socialism in the form of welfare would buy the complicity of the people much more easily and permanently than quick, immediate changes to America’s economic structure. Overt socialism, it was argued, could never take hold in America; a fair assessment. There are too many dependent or sympathetic to the government dole to stop it now, at least in whole.

Baby steps can be taken, especially in periods of scandal like this. Lobbying rules, cloture votes and new legislation to curtail access to Congress will do nothing. Those who get money and gifts to the Congress are already exempt from such feeble attempts and will likely remain so. The only way to do it is to push for restrictions on governmental power and this is what you and I must push for with our representatives.

Explain to them that this is the only way to truly dispel such influence over them and that your vote is contingent upon their acknowledgement of this fact. Make it the rallying cry, the campaign promise of anyone who wishes to stay in office, to first and publicly ask does this fit the original intent of the Constitution? If not, out it goes.

It’s a dream, certainly, but one we can make inroads to and times like now are likely the only times anyone would even remotely listen. Take it for what it’s worth.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Living In the Past

Conservatives and Libertarians are often mocked for “living in the past”. We are told that the world has changed and we must change with it, whether that means changing out moral values or even changing the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, it’s “progressive” now to be in favor of forgetting the past, or at least ignoring it.

That makes it all the sadder to see that the Florida Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling declared the state’s voucher program unconstitutional. Now, unlike other states, Florida has a right to education written into its state constitution and thus has done itself in. The legislature really hurt them in that case and unfortunately the Florida Supreme Court interpreted the law as it was.

Voices like the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis, though, see it as a victory for the Left. To quote them:

This ruling underscores the bedrock American notion that universal public schooling has an equalizing, unifying effect and that it is worth preserving. Though public systems clearly need to improve, they should not be abandoned or diluted.

Hardly “progressive”, don’t you think? The myth that public schools will make us all one homogenous culture still holds. Where at one time it might have helped, nowadays multiculturalism, another darling of the Left, is frequently use to promote differences in schools rather than sameness. We are not one people, one nation, but hundreds of cultures each worthy of respect (except conservatives, libertarians and Christians in general). This is what the schools teach and this is why many parents want to vote with their dollars and send their kids elsewhere.

The idea that public schools must be protected at all costs is in itself out of date and dangerous. Regardless of failure, the schools shouldn’t be forced to compete; we are told, or scrapped for a better system. Preservation of failure is probably about as opposite of “progressive” as I could guess.

In the case of Florida, the citizens will have to work with the legislature on amending their constitution to give them a choice, but the rest of us already have one. Offer alternatives to public school, be it home-schooling or private or scrap the system altogether. Forty years of failure in public education should be all the reason you need. Public schools are social laboratories for the Left and little more these days that we pay for. Put them out of their misery or at least give people the option to make that choice. Choice seems to be such a big buzzword with the Left. Why don’t they apply it to education for a change.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Views From the Opposing Camp On Eminent Domain

Matthew Greller, executive director for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns weighed in recently in the Indianapolis Star on HB 1010, the proposed bill for reform of the use of eminent domain in the State of Indiana. Mr. Greller’s position, unsurprisingly, is that eminent domain is rarely used and when it is, it is only with the best of intentions and when there is no other recourse. He also notes below that we may simply be overreacting.

It's possible the bill's sponsors may be overreacting to the much-publicized impasse between the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority and N.K. Hurst Co. over property needed for the new stadium project. This single case should not rush us to judgment that could have unfortunate ramifications.

I don’t think N.K. Hurst, as big a hot-button topic as that has been lately, is why there’s such a “rush”, if you could call a 5-month plus review a “rush”, to decide how to modify eminent domain. I notice Mr. Greller sees no need to attribute any of the haste to the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision. No, that could have nothing to do with it.

Eminent domain is a rarely used government action, frequently upheld by state and federal courts, that lets a city or town acquire property with just compensation and relocation expenses to property owners. It may be used only for the public good, with stringent review and public input. It is used only as a last resort after all private negotiations have failed. Without eminent domain, many roads, sewer lines, water resources and other public projects would never have been completed.

But no one is complaining about roads, sewer lines, water resources and “other public projects”. In fact, at no point have I heard one of the legislators or land-rights proponents speak out against this at all. The primary focus and main concern for such legislation has been private land taken by a local government and given to a private developer. Why this isn’t mentioned in the preceding paragraph is obvious, but very telling of the quality of Mr. Greller’s argument.

He also notes something I hear often about just compensation and relocation expenses. In the cases I’ve reviewed, usually the land owners are offered market value of their property and maybe a little extra, but never “just compensation” or much in the way of relocation expenses. Maybe my case review isn’t broad enough, but the IACT’s own lawyer stated in legislative hearings nothing of relocation expenses. He spoke only of appraisers for the town or city and if required appraisers for the property owner attempting to hammer out the value of the site. He spoke nothing of “just compensation” for essentially kicking out the rightful owner to make way for someone who needs a political favor. Luckily, the legislative members at the hearing took note of that as well,.

Without the possible use of eminent domain, Indiana probably would not have the AM General Plant in Mishawaka, the Toyota plant in Gibson County or the Isuzu plant in Tippecanoe County.

More recently, eminent domain was a factor in the Fall Creek Place project in Indianapolis, the revitalization of an entire inner-city neighborhood that earlier had been plagued with blight and street crime.

In the city's acquisition of more than 250 properties, 28 cases of eminent domain were filed and used only when the owners of the property could not be found.

So here we have the private uses not mentioned earlier, but now mentioned in case format. Using auto plants as examples of good uses for eminent domain, to me, is bad form. Any business should be able to buy the property it needs from the individuals who are the rightful owners. Abandoned property and the like is a good candidate for eminent domain, but I find it highly dubious for Mr. Greller to try and push this off as the norm. Such businesses come off more like Harvey Korman in Blazing Saddles than the noble beneficiaries of the public trust through eminent domain.

HB 1010, with all its new restrictions, is not needed to protect those rights. In fact, in a state where many economic development initiatives are being pursued with a sense of urgency, HB 1010 could well be counterproductive.

Now we’re getting down to brass tacks. It’s bad business for the state and municipalities! Well, that makes it ok then. Rights are only expedient as long as they don’t interfere with business. Regardless of what he meant to say, that’s the jist of Mr. Greller’s statement. Interpret it however you want, he plainly points out that money is the bottom line. And perhaps, again, he hasn’t been paying much attention to the news.

The Kelo decision has sparked a wave of eminent domain abuses as municipalities now feel they have carte blanche to take property for private development as necessary. Poor Centennial Baptist Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma is a prime example, being threatened by potential development of a Home Depot. Despite Mr. Greller’s objections, he is either ignoring or just ignorant of the abuses currently underway. Indiana residents simply want fair protection from those with not quite as noble intentions as the towns represented by Mr. Greller.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Long Awaited

I think one of the first books I read about the Clinton presidency was Unlimited Access. Gary Aldrich's expose of what he'd seen while serving as an FBI agent in the newly-minted Clinton White House was eye opening, but not so eye opening as the sound of crickets from the media of the day who wouldn't even interview him. George Stephanopolous, then still a Clinton crony, probably made the biggest splash on any news show by dismissing Aldrich's claims without so much as a why and then never speaking of them again.

Since then, we've also had five years of the Bush presidency, one in which ironically enough Senator Hillary Clinton has called one of the most corrupt in history, and a white washing of the Clinton legacy as well as intonations to 'move on' and stop blaming everything bad on Clinton.

Well, despite the best efforts of those who like revisionist history, the heavily censored-by-Democrats Barrett Report has finally debuted, and lo and behold there appears to have indeed been massive corruption and scandal in the Clinton White House. Who'd have thunk it?

The reason I bring this up on a blog about government not being responsive to the people or government thinking it's above the people is this. The Clinton administration, regardless of what revisionist history is telling kids these days, was demonstrably one of the most corrupt administrations if not the most in the history of this country. Even to this day, with the former NSA advisor Sandy Berger getting convicted of stealing documents from the National Archives, the members of the Clinton administration demonstrate and have demonstrated how they feel they and their policies are above the law, and above the common pleb they wish to control. For an example of exactly the kind of people who you don't want running this country, and that's important as they seek to do it again in 2008, you need look no further thanthe lists of scandals and the members of this administration, especially the incredibly long list of members that have done time for Bubba C's admin.

Say what you will about the current administration, they have not even amassed a fraction of scandals or convictions compared to the previous. The important thing to remember is, this is not just a Republican/Democrat/Libertarian/Reform/Green thing. This is not just an ethics thing. This is a look at an administration whose alumni may again see power in three years. The last thing they'd like you to remember is the way they ran things previously. So, given the release of the Barrett report, I thought, what better time to do just that.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Simple Suggestion

Much has already been written about the latest, and I emphasize merely the latest, lobbying scandal in the form of Jack Abramoff. Howard Dean and the Democrats say that, despite taking money from Abramoff's lobby associates themselves, it is a Republican scandal. Republicans say "Hey it wasn't just us...". I heard the same arguments from boys who broke a window in my apartment complex when I was a kid. Funny enough, the Republicans are right, and just as culpable. It is both of them. Not all senators and congressmen take lobbying gifts, but the majority do and always have.

As to what could be done about it, I think the inestimable Walter Williams has some of the best suggestions. He breaks down the root cause of why we end up with such scandals in the first place quite well.

Let's start this analysis with a question. Why do corporations, unions and other interest groups fork over millions of dollars to the campaign coffers of politicians? Is it because these groups are extraordinarily civic-minded Americans who have a deep interest in congressmen doing their jobs of upholding and defending the U.S. Constitution? Might it be that these groups and their Washington-based lobby arms, numbering in the thousands, just love participating in the political process? Anyone answering in the affirmative to either question probably also believes that storks deliver babies and there really is an Easter Bunny and Santa Claus.

A much better explanation for the millions going to the campaign coffers of Washington politicians lies in the awesome growth of government control over business, property, employment and other areas of our lives. Having such power, Washington politicians are in the position to grant favors. The greater their power to grant favors, the greater the value of being able to influence Congress, and there's no better influence than money.


You ask what can be done? Campaign finance and lobby reform will only change the method of influence-peddling. If Congress did only what's specifically enumerated in our Constitution, influence-peddling would be a non-issue simply because the Constitution contains no authority for Congress to grant favors and special privileges. Nearly two decades ago, during dinner with the late Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek, I asked him if he had the power to write one law that would get government out of our lives, what would that law be? Professor Hayek replied he'd write a law that read: Whatever Congress does for one American it must do for all Americans. He elaborated: If Congress makes payments to one American for not raising pigs, every American not raising pigs should also receive payments. Obviously, were there to be such a law, there would be reduced capacity for privilege-granting by Congress and less influence-peddling.

I'd like to add just one suggestion to that analysis. Stop taking bribes! I know that may seem a bit like common sense, but apparently it's being missed somewhere along the line. Especially over the past seventy years, as government power has swelled to immense levels, lobbyists have seen rich opportunities to advance their clients' interests by purchasing influence. Most have rarely done so outright. It has come in the form of campaign contributions, which frankly you'll never stop until you reduce the power of government, and "gifts". These gifts, be it an expensive trip on some 'fact-finding mission' or special expensive items unique to the client's business or home region or what have you, it is and always will be unethical for any legislative member of state or federal government to accept them.

I'm not sure if the federal employees labor under the same intensive ethics rules as I know for a fact many state employees must endure, but frankly the double standard is a bit mind-blowing. As civil servants, state employees in Indiana, for example, cannot take anything from an entity that might even potentially do business with the state. Even so much as a cup of water is too much for many supervisors. The general suggestion and one that is typically followed to the letter is "just say no thank you". State employees do not wish to offer an appearance of impropriety. Why should the legislature, or Congress, be any different? The correct answer is, it shouldn't be.

Anyone who actually buys into the latest mainstream line that this is somehow a party-oriented scandal obviously can't get their head out of the partisan muck. This is politics in America, pure and simple, and until we demand that Congress and our legislatures follow the same rules that the rest of government employees have taken as a given for most of the time, expect both major parties to siphon off as much cash and favors as they possibly can. Campaign finance reform is no good. Lobbying reform is no good. Siphon off some of the power these entities have afforded themselves over us and you'll siphon off the bribes. Now do you get it?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Relevance in the Modern World

I've heard the argument once in awhile that the Constitution as written has little or no relevance in the modern age. This often is the preface for an explanation of why it must be interpreted, massaged and sometimes flat-out rewritten to meet the needs of modern society. I have personally never agreed with this statement. I'm not alone. Take into account the words in a recent editorial by Joseph Sobran:

"When the U.S. Constitution was written, Yale and Harvard were still little Christian colleges, not yet big universities; Benjamin Franklin was puttering with electricity, which nobody foresaw would transform home life, communication, and everything else; air travel was hardly even a dream; modern weapons of mass murder weren't even imagined; and the first version of King Kong hadn't yet been filmed. How could this quaint document have relevance to our world today? A fair question. Without treating it as Holy Writ, we can recognize that it embodied a sound principle: the division of power. Like an even older and quainter document, the Magna Carta, its distant ancestor, it recognized the danger of concentrating arbitrary power in the hands of too few men, especially one man. The narrow specifics differ, which is why each generation's passions sound quaint to the next; but the principle is always the same."

That covers the history end of it better than I could. I'd also ask that you consider this. The rights and delegated powers enumerated in that document were not thrown in on a whim. This was not a narrative pieced together in a weekend and it was not just a bunch of old white merchantilists making sure they were taken care of in the new political order. This was a collection of some of the finest men of their day, inspired by even finer men of the Age of Enlightment like Burke and Rousseau. They labored and debated over the need to even create such a document, even in light of the failure of the Articles of Confederation to accurately govern. This was no fly-by-night operation.

The Federalist was written mostly to explain why and how a Constitution should function and the Bill of Rights was added to ensure that this new government did not do the very thing our government currently does, overstep its intended authority. All governments stretch their authority based on the principle that they do it for the good of their people. If not us, who? If not the government indeed. Government always tries to be our master. It is the people who must keep it subservient and the people who must fight to retain their inalienable rights. It is not the authority of the government to usurp small governments or the individual. This idea is as fresh now as it was in the Eighteenth Century.

Are the Constitution and the musings of political men long dead still valid today? I say more than ever. We discount them at our peril and to the advantage of those who would wrap us in chains; bureaucratic, statutory, philosophical or metal. They all bind the same. When someone tells you it's not relevant, ask them what their stake in it is. Ask them why they so desparately need to discount it. The answer, I'm sure, will not come easy or truthfully in most cases. That's why the Constitution is relevant. It's your armor and your sword against foes such as that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why Not Just Put A Tag In Our Ear?

It seems to be a standard New Year's resolution of the Left. Gun control politicians on the local level are advocating national-level remedies to their local problems. "If we can't fix it ourselves, then the rest of the country will just have to conform to us". What a novel way of looking at their fellow citizens. Mayor Bloomberg of New York started this with his call for tougher gun control across the nation to benefit New Yorkers. Now Boston joins the fray with a call to install GPS devices on all firearms.

Russell Nichols of the Boston Globe writes an article about Boston city councilor Rob Consalvo advocating not only putting a tracking device in every new gun, but having legal gun owners install them in their existing weapons so "owners and police can locate and retrieve stolen guns the same way police use a computer chip to locate stolen cars".

Councilman Consalvo thinks it's a "common-sense idea", and although he admits the cost might be high to accomplish this task, "it would be worth it". To whom, he fails to mention. The answer is rather obvious. It's advantageous to those who wish to control who buys firearms to make them prohibitively expensive. Since taxes and regulatory fees haven't worked well as alternatives to outright bans, the fallback is always the "safety issue". If you can't tax or regulate something out of existence, get 'em on safety. As long as it makes a de facto ban, who cares, right? If it leaves the poor unable to afford such a luxury item, what do people like Councilman Consalvo care? They have police protection, at least.

Now let's examine the reality of this. Although the article notes he's meeting with Smith & Wesson, that company's been burned before cooperating with gun control advocates, and it's unlikely they'll be as naive a second time. Their response basically seems to be "no comment", but undoubtedly what they will tell the Councilman in private is that a) you need a power source for the GPS attached somehow which might make guns unwieldy and b) how do we feasibly design such a thing without a criminal being able to rip it out? Sure, in a car, it's not an easy thing to take out of the car's computer, but cars have had computers for over twenty years. They need them. Guns, on the other hand, have no computer except the brain attached to their wielder. Where's it go, then? If Colt and S&W couldn't figure out "smart" guns for Clinton, then how do they expect to figure out OnStar for guns? I'm not sure either, but when have leftists let a little thing like reality interfere with such a grand idea?

Gun violence follows two general trends, lack of firearms in an area that encourage predatory criminals, and drug trafficking. If you want to eliminate gun violence in your area, and you've already disarmed your own sheep, I mean citizenry, then your choices are to try and infringe on honest citizens' rights outside your jurisdiction or to catch the criminals involved in said crimes. Often, it's easier and more cost effective to do the former. Heaven forbid we require government to actually fight crime, lock up criminals and keep the streets safe. Instead, they show us their main concern is worrying that we can protect ourselves and might get to the criminals before they do. Considering the cities that have thus far enacted total gun bans, even going so far as going door to door to confiscate weapons, I feel no need to make it easier for them by putting a big bulls eye on where I keep my firearms.

Councilman Consalvo suffers from the latest wave of the disease of the Left, the disease that infects its victim with a need to see those they govern as children or at best subjects to be ruled as they see fit, while ignoring the real problem, criminals. Put the criminals in jail. Execute the worst of them. Crime, amazingly, goes down. Disarm the citizenry, put an electronic leash on them, and watch your city fall to chaos. Folks like Mr. Consalvo must have a big light shined on them for proposing such ideas, so that those with the real "common sense" can vote them out next election. Farewell to bad rubbish, Mr. Consalvo.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Light Reading

While, we're at it, it's always worthwhile to keep a close eye on how the government spends you're money and Citizens Against Government Waste has been a good watchdog group for just this purpose. I'd advise paying them a little visit every now and then to check on what's new.

And a plug for one of my favorite radio hosts. This guy doesn't get much play in central Indiana, but where he does, I'd advise giving him a listen. He's about as much of a real straight-shooter as you will ever hear. This man should've been in Congress, but he had to run in California. Jerry Doyle, a guy who's done a little bit of everything, has been doing radio for a few years now and I'd encourage anyone to look up if he plays in your area and at least listen to one show. You won't regret it.

Happy MLK Day

Well, here it is, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the only federal holiday I'm aware of that we still celebrate an individual. My other favorite holiday as a child, Washington's Birthday, is now lumped in with the sometimes tyrannical Henry Clay disciple, Abraham Lincoln in the generic President's Day.

Don't get me wrong. What MLK Jr. is remembered for, the fight to finally get people to ignore skin color/race and focus on the individual's quality, the content of their character to borrow from his words, is a very worthwhile and important thing. Although his cause provided us with just a few more statutory rights, in other words, rights granted (and just as easily taken away) by the government, he led a significant portion of a movement that helped heal a lot of the wounds of Reconstruction. For those who slept through that part of history class (I was almost with you on that one), Reconstruction covered the period in which a vengeful Congress treated the states as subjugated territory that had to ratify the oft-misued Fourteenth Amendment before being allowed back in the Union. That's a story for another post, though.

Those who didn't fight the war for the right to retain slaves in the South, which was a considerable majority, became resentful and hateful of the North and the federal government. Fueling the fire of southern racists, this led to the rise of the KKK and Jim Crow laws. So, King did us all a world of good in stepping forward to lead a large part of this movement and for that he should be recognized, perhaps as part of a "Civil Rights Day", more than just for himself.

If the first and perhaps best President of our country no longer is deemed worthy of honoring with his own holiday, then how do we justify anyone else, including Martin Luther King Jr.? Again, I have no qualms with the man, but I do have a quarrel with how the federal government portrays his memory. Is remembering rights granted to us by the government in a turbulent time more important than remembering our Founders and where we came from? If you've read my blog from the beginning, you'll already know the government's answer to that is a resounding yes.

So...enjoy the day. It's good to relfect on good men and women and the sacrifices they made to get us here. It's equally good to reflect on how our government in all its bureaucratic glory capitalizes on the work of those same people. You can't fight city hall, the old saying goes, but you can certainly be exploited by them after you're in the ground.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Make Room For Teddy

If there was a member of Congress more symbolic of the need for term limits, more symbolic of their loss of touch with the realities of the average American and more unfit to serve in any capacity other than the drunk who hangs out by the bar begging for change, it is the inestimable Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. This week's hearings to confirm Sam Alito to the Supreme Court has given Teddy a chance to really pontificate. His quotes sound like they came out of a Grisham novel and some tend to make you wonder if he's looked in a mirror lately.

This man has spent over forty years in the Senate, a child of privilege, heir to a fortune built on a criminal enterprise, bloviating and blustering about every perceived injustice with himself as the sole champion of the people. The casting of himself as such a hero figure brings to mind old Saddam's pictures of himself muscularly drawn saving some blonde damsel from some evil creature. Teddy is a 70 plus year old Frat Boy transplanted from his Greek kegger, I mean council, to the halls of Congress.

Normally, I wouldn't pick on a man just for being who he is. We all are the sum of our parts, for good or ill. We all do our best and at the end of the day it's assumed most of us are on the same side. Teddy is simply a sparkling caricature of the worst a man can be in the Senate, of one who has stayed too long, of a man who perhaps never did understand or care to comprehend those he claims to serve.

From Teddy, we get nanny-state legislation and social justice issues designed to set any who are of his own party and left of Che as the heroes and all else as Scrooges and Grinches, evil fascists who would corrupt and control all that was good in Camelot. For Teddy, it is not a matter of taking money from hard-working families or wealthy entrepreneurs to redistribute in his socialist schemes to those who did not make the best choices in life. It is about being charitable to those less fortunate, and no one but he can be trusted to be charitable unless the full power and might of the federal government is brought to bear on them. We must be made to be nice, so it goes with Teddy.

And feel free to do whatever vice your heart desires. A man who walked away from a drowning secretary could think no less. That's the Teddy way. That is, of course, unless it doesn't mesh with his beer-goggle view of society. Morals are a virtue Teddy can't abide. If he can't have them, surely no one else really does either.

Again, I'm not usually one for a hit piece, but the author of these quotes sort of begs for it:

"In an era when too many Americans are losing their jobs, or working for less and trying to make ends meet, in close cases Judge Alito has ruled the vast majority of the time against the claims of individual citizens. He has acted instead in favor of the government, large corporations, and other powerful interests."

As opposed to Teddy, who has never been in favor of government over individual citizens or powerful special interests... Hypocrisy, they name is "Beer Funnel Teddy".

"In an era when the White House is abusing power, is excusing and authorizing torture, and is spying on American citizens, I find Judge Alito's support for an all-powerful executive branch to be genuinely troubling.”

At least, as long as the Executive is run by Republicans. Previous Democrat administrations who did the same either didn't meet this criteria with Teddy or perhaps he was on a bender at the time.

“Under the presidents spying program, there are no checks and no balances. There is no outside review of the legality of this brazen infringement on the civil rights and liberties of the American people. Undeterred by the public outcry, the president vows to continue spying on American citizens”.

He must’ve missed Bill Moyers using the same power at the behest of LBJ to order Hoover’s FBI to hunt down dirt on Goldwater’s campaign staffers. Perhaps he also missed a former bouncer turned “Security Director” in the Clinton White House illegally holding hundreds of classified FBI files on prominent Republicans. And maybe news of Clinton’s ordering of the FBI to use ECHELON for domestic spying was overlooked in his rush to get to Happy Hour at O’Feelemup’s Pub that day. Being such a radical means never having to acknowledge what a raging hypocrite you are.

“Ultimately, the courts will make the final judgment whether the White House has gone too far. Independent and impartial judges must assess the proper balance between protecting our liberties and protecting our national security."

No word on whether independent and impartial includes making law up out of whole cloth, discovering laws in emanations of penumbras, or finding the justification in a foreign court’s cracker jack box along with the tin whistle prize. Apparently, those sorts of judges are ok.

And lastly, I consider any man who would leave a woman to drown while he walked away to relative comfort as not a man and certainly one who can no longer claim any moral or ethical high ground in criticizing anyone let alone holding public office. The very fact that the Massachusetts Left has chosen to curse us with his presence for all these years, I think, earns them a special place in Hell. And thus ends my character assassination. I’ll attempt to return to more even-handed debates on the merits of topics in the future.

As I was composing this, I heard the news that Teddy was dredging up a 20 plus year old membership in Concerned Alumni of Princeton for Alito. I'm sorry, next will we learn that he has a dangerous and delusional history of believing in fantasy characters because as a child he was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club? Perhaps what was funnier in all this tragedy was Teddy's own Democratic colleague, Dianne Feinstein, who had to keep coaching Teddy because he was too (senile, drunk, fill in your own word and enjoy the joke) to finish his lefty talking point assault against Alito. Teddy read off an article from CAP's publication that of course was made to sound worse than it was. The article appeared to be attacking affirmative action and the like, but you couldn't really tell that from the way it was read before the Senate. One would think CAP wanted to lynch the minorities and send the women back to the kitchen.

That this magazine article from twenty years ago was spun that way was predictable, albeit DATED. Should we spin Walter Duranty's 1930's era articles on Stalin as the current view of the New York Times? Well, maybe that's a bad example. Anyway, they brought out the old canard of "guilt by association". This was used most effectively by the communists and fascists of a bygone era from Germany to Russia to Cambodia. An easy way to establish guilt where there is none is to take an associated figure, even one only loosely associated to your intended target, and smear the target with the opinion or perceived wrong doing of the associate.

This, if you'd asked your favorite leftist any other day would've been called *gasp* *double gasp* McCarthyism. That's right. Although McCarthyism from Joseph McCarthy, when viewed through a more objective prism, wasn't so much what the Left fondly reminisces as McCarthyism, if you watched Teddy Kennedy assaulting Samuel Alito, you saw what does realistically fit that definition. He made the rest of the rabid Dems look tame by comparison. Something for the Dems to be proud of, wouldn't you say? Make room for Teddy.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

When Trouble Comes...

The issue of religion in public display is one that is at the forefront of debate in our society. Daily we are bombarded with an array of arguments, all usually based around a small fact or phrase perverted and twisted to establish the base leftist point, with reasons why Christianity most specifically should be abolished from the public square. "In God We Trust" and "Under God" join Nativity scenes, crosses on the necklaces of government employees , and school prayer as taboo artifacts of an arcane culture, one that is seen more of as menace than a part of the fabric of our society.

We could discuss this at great length, and rest assured I intend to, but such a wide attack often requires an even wider defense, so one step at a time. Today I choose to look at the primary philosophy behind the removal of religion from our society over the last fifty years, secular humanism.

Humanism is, quite simply, a humano-centric viewpoint of the world. We are here because we evolved here through natural processes. We are part of a cog or the pinnacle or some byproduct because chance has plopped us on this dirt clod. It is an attempt by some to rationalize their and our existence. Interesting, sounds like religion. This viewpoint is currently used to energetically argue that God or any variant thereof has no place in our government or anything our tax dollars may touch. Leaving aside the obvious socialist abuses of our tax dollars that make such an argument even possible, the argument often is that such elements will invariably offend someone and thus only their lack of presence will sate the masses.

Secularists view laws as being moldable based on the times or needs of society. With some laws, this may be appropriate. With others, especially criminal law, it is not. Secularism rarely makes the distinction. Secularism also sees our rights as CIVIL, and therefore granted by fiat of the government or grudgingly perhaps as an accepted norm by society in general. Rights are not the gift of a Creator or natural to our existence, but mutable and moldable. Again, this is very doctrine-oriented.

Then there's the oft-bandied "Separation of Church & State" line, usually attributed to Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptists, but more quoted from a Hugo Black opinion of more recent vintage. So, again, in senile old men riding a bench in Washington, not God, do they trust.

Secular humanists are quick to point out that their doctrine is not religion. It is a philosophy, a simple way of describing their general view and not the core of some faith or worship system. But what is religion? One definition notes it as "A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion". That's off for those looking. Just about anyone with cause enough to research the battle against religion in society over the last fifty years would attribute this definition to secular humanists. They are zealous and most certainly proceed with conscientious devotion to weed out any and all traces of religions, mostly Christianity, that they do not agree with seeing exhibited by the bulk of society through our public spaces.

Regardless of whether you believe secular humanism is a religion unto itself or not, it certainly acts like one, and just as readily the actions taken by those who knowingly represent its cause or not in removing religion from the public square are forcing their own "Establishment of Religion" by presenting an alternative as noted above to the view of the Founding Fathers, one more easily moldable and changeable and one far less devoted to the roots of our society, its founding principles, or most importantly its stated freedoms.

Take away one Creator and replace Him with nature, with a secular view of existence, and you've Established a new faith, a new doctrine or more simply a new religion and you are the people the Founding Fathers warned us about when they wrote the First Amendment. Violating the Free Exercise of the faith of those who seek to say "In God We Trust", "Under God", or praise Jesus in an opening prayer in a state legislature is a more egregious violation of our Founders' intent than any Nativity scene in a public square.

The Left views religion as Marx did, the opiate of the masses. It is an addiction, certainly, a way in which many cannot go through their daily lives without having some way to explain their existence or purpose on Earth. The crack cocaine of secular humanism seeks to replace this addiction with one more destructive than any religious war or zealous crusade. We saw its implementation in the former Soviet Union. We see it in China. We see it everywhere those who believe in humanism over something greater have taken power. We even see it, in small doses, here. If you would please, gentle reader, please explain to me how it proved more noble or superior to religion in those places, or here at home. That's a story I'd like to hear.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hoosier Advice to Their Lawmakers

The Indianapolis Star posted a list of suggested advice by regular Hoosiers to the newly-convened legislature today. Some good and not so good comments were listed. Among them were the usual, taxes, all-day kindergarten, still ticked off about Daylight Savings Time... There was plenty of that to go around. One stood out to me, though, and I'll reprint it below:

"Go home. Leave things the way they are. I think we'll be all right. I think we have enough laws."

I have to say...I like that person's train of thought. I think she doesn't go quite far enough, though. Perhaps a look at the laws and taxes currently on the books would be worthwhile as well. In the spirit of the great Andy Horning's "Sunset Law" proposal, the legislature should take a year or two and go over existing law, excising those bits of legislation that are either out of date or sorely unnecessary when referenced against Indiana's Constitution. Alas, I'm not sure we'll see this during the current or any other session. Lawmakers seem to be about making new laws only. Some turn out to be very good and help further define our freedoms. Some turn out to be just the opposite, restricting freedom in deed or through taxation.

So, consider it fellas. Consider taking an early vacation, especially if the next law you propose is as frivilous as sobriety and a clear conscience might indicate. You could start a trend. Maybe the US Congress could learn from the example you set and meet less often as well. All this would mean more vacation time for you and your family and less burdensome legal code for the rest of us. Call it a win-win.

Maybe it's just wishful thinking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Similar…

New York is some kind of town, and its mayor is usually something else as well. Its current mayor, RINO Michael Bloomberg, seeks to enter and revive the national debate on gun rights by saying it is our fault that New York has gun crime. Again, this is bad comedy.

In the New York Daily News recently, , Bloomberg cited the statistic that most guns used in crime in New York, in addition to being illegal are also from certain states overwhelmingly, like Florida and Georgia.

The paper provided this insight into the left’s feelings on his remarks.

Gun control advocates said that as the Republican mayor of the country's largest city - and one of the GOP's most generous donors - Bloomberg could be uniquely positioned to influence the national gun control debate.

"If he can make an alliance of governors and mayors - particularly Republican governors and mayors - it could greatly help us," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Fantasy Land), an author of the Brady Bill, which requires background checks for handgun purchases. "We haven't had a major Republican voice speaking out for gun control in a long time."

Bloomberg has about as much chance of influencing the Republican party to buy into his line of drivel as I do of convincing Ted Kennedy to go SCUBA diving in the Chappaquiddick. (How’s that Scotch and Murky Water taste, Senator?).

People like Bloomberg always like to examine things from their own little microcosm. Water’s wet, the sky’s blue and New York is all that matters. Say, Mr. Mayor, that every state got rid of guns, the collective w@t dream of the left. Then what? Would New York become gun free? Would crime magically stop? No, criminals still would want guns, you see. They’d want them just like English, Canadian and Australian criminals still want them and they will get them from some other source if they can’t get them locally. They’ll obtain them from Third World nations or former communist nations or just some entrepreneurial nation that starts developing its own guns for sale on the open market.

Crime is the ultimate free market and if people want a product bad enough then nine times out of ten they get it. Will you stop them all, Mr. Bloomberg? Is that a red S I see emblazoned on your T-shirt under that suit and tie? Your assessment just like others before it that reached the same conclusion is not worth the paper your speechwriter wrote it on. Such measures do not work. Prosecute the felons. Put them in jail or end their existence with a jolt from old sparky. Crime will go down. Despite feel-good lefty assertions to the contrary that amazingly does work.

You also have as much right telling another state what to do as you have commanding the sun to rise when you feel like waking up in the morning. Such ego trips often fall just as hard as they rise and my sincerest hope is that Mr. Bloomberg’s follows that pattern. Sweet dreams in your fantasy land, Mr. Bloomberg.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Eminent Domain Revisited…and Revisited…

My compliments to the continued work of Dave Wolkins and Jeff Drozda. These two legislators have pushed farther than any other legislator in attempting to reform the laws of eminent domain in Indiana. Their editorial in the Indianapolis Star regarding the N.K. Hurst debacle is much appreciated and illuminating to the average citizen. It’s also good to see they believe their reformation should encompass such a blatant abuse as this.

It would be nice to see this concern translate to some form of action, an intervention even, on someone on the State’s behalf, to terminate the filing of eminent domain now so that serious negotiations can continue. It does literally hang over the head of N.K. Hurst like a Sword of Damocles. They exist under the threat that if they cannot negotiate something quickly and to the Stadium Authority’s liking, they will be pounced upon by the law, who will decide for them. Funny, I thought Republican-controlled institutions were against activist courts deciding any citizens’ future. This is a less than impressive show for that majority, the alleged party of small government.

I call on members of state government, those who have a say against the Stadium Authority, to demand this lawsuit be removed. It is a black eye on our system of justice, and its timely filing a blatant case of abuse against a respected business. Is this the image you want to send people who want to start businesses in Indiana? Start your business. Please stay even if economic times are hard. But if we need that land, best get your butt out of town before sundown. Very impressive indeed.

I encourage and implore Rep.’s Wolkins and Drozda to not just seek legislation making it harder to file suit before negotiations are exhausted. I beg them to also consider making eminent domain a very costly process, making it a true last resort by appealing to the only place that seems to matter, the pocketbook of the offending agency. I have heard it said that such attempts to gain just compensation, not simply fair market value, are greedy and the main reason why people want “reform” of eminent domain. I say to you we should be greedy, greedy enough to stall the power of a governmental juggernaut that barely considers who it squashes as it rolls along.

Do me and the people of Indiana this favor. Make eminent domain rare and expensive and I guarantee you the abuses will diminish. They will never stop, as those in power will always seek to gain more, but they will diminish, and those who use such tools will be forced to think twice, perhaps even thrice, before screwing around with a property owner. This is exactly as it should be in our society. The “blight”, I would remind our government officials, is not in the property they seek to confiscate, but in the heart of government. It shows as a stain our government’s honor. Please consider those as you work to rectify this injustice.

Update 1: The Indiana legislature started off with a bang and introduced some interesting eminent domain legislation, most likely due to the publicity of the N.K. Hurst fiasco. Here is the jist of it from their site in a story by Michele McNeil:

The power of government to seize private property would be limited under legislation approved unanimously by a House committee today.
House Bill 1010, sponsored by Rep. David Wolkins, R-Winona Lake, would allow local governments to use the power of eminent domain only when no other “reasonable” alternative exists.

The bill is retroactive to Nov. 23, which means that it could affect a pending lawsuit the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority has filed against the N.K. Hurst Co. This family-owned bean company is on the stadium site – taking up planned parking spaces. But the Hurst family wants to stay.

Although negotiations continue, the authority sued the Hurst family in December in an attempt to lock in 2005 law and pre-empt legislative efforts.

If property owners do lose their land to the government, the bill would require, in many in stances, owners to be paid 150 percent of the property’s market value.

The bill places further limits on governments that want to use eminent domain to obtain property, and then give it to a private developer. In that case, to seize the property, the parcel would have to be uninhabitable, unsafe or unsanitary.

The bill now advances to the full House for consideration.

I usually don't post a full article like that, but it summed it up better than I could. I like the market value notice, although frankly I think it should be more. It's that whole 'incentive to find alternatives' thing. Money's a great incentive.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Some People Will Never Get it Part II

Continuing in our discussion on how some will never get it on how ineffective gun control is, I turn your attention to a little story from Washington D.C. It seems the former disgraced mayor and criminal and current City Councilman Marion Barry was the victim of a home invasion. Some kids (read little thugs) that he paid to help him bring in some groceries apparently broke in later, held a gun to his head and stole his wallet, cash, and credit cards. Cam Edwards details a list of other celebrities in the D.C. area that have also been assaulted in the gun-free utopia that is Washington.

Although the former mayor and crook himself described the incident as “traumatic”, he still has no seeming desire to see such crime reduced by repealing the ridiculous 1976 gun ban. Barry, like most Washington city officials, still blames the gun and not the criminal. He has often railed at how readily accessible guns are from nearby Virginia (where crime is considerably less) and can be transported into the anti-gun haven of Washington. In the past couple of years, there have been attempts to ease the ban or repeal it altogether, but they have largely failed. It would take the likes of figures like Barry to renounce the law to and in some small way perhaps reduce crime in the Washington D.C. area.

What we will likely see, though, is more anti-gun rhetoric. It’s often said that a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. There are exceptions to every rule, though, and individuals such as Marion Barry personify that exception in this case. It’s not the thuggish kids, or the welfare state, or the decline of family or the ridiculous gun laws. No, it’s the guns. Such individuals, even when they literally have a gun in their face, seem to want to believe this, and this is what makes it so hard to have a serious debate on such issues.

MTV also seems to have a little trouble getting it. One of their regular series last week showcased four people who owned guns or whose lives were touched by guns. They interviewed a coed who had purchased a gun after an attempted assault, a hunter, a gang member, and a former gang member who’d been shot and partially paralyzed. Of those, the gang member owned his guns illegally and the paralysis victim was a strong anti-gun advocate.

So we have 50% pro and 50% con (as it were), right? That might be balanced if it also reflected how many guns are used in crimes. Less than 1% of the guns in the U.S. are used in crime, but that statistic wasn’t quoted. Nor was there any counter to the former gang member’s litany of gun control statistics, most directly off the Brady Bunch’s web site. The hunter just talked about hunting and the coed seemed mostly concerned with her own safety and not statistics. That’s all well and good, but it does subtly and deliberately skew the “documentary” to the leftist side.

Again, they just don’t want to get it. The issue is treated in a vacuum, once again. Take nothing else into account but what bad can be done. Don’t take into account (and MTV did not) the over 7,000 estimated uses of a gun for self-defense every single day. Take into account the gang member who is already committing a crime just having the illegal weapon. Take into account the anti-gun activist who is immune from criticism because a bullet crippled him. Show a stereotypical hunter and a scared woman who is still unsure of her feelings on the matter and call it balanced.

That’s not balance, that’s misdirection. That’s a dirty hand at alteration of perception. Before I start sounding too much like Jesse Jackson, I’ll leave you with this. Even today, when gun rights are fading as a hot-button issue with the Left, make no mistake that they will still attempt to peddle their agenda as quietly and aggressively as possible.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Some People Will Never Get It Part I

When it comes to the debate on gun rights, as Struther Martin so famously said in Cool Hand Luke, “Some people, you just can’t reach”. A series of recent events has occurred over this week to convince me such words are truer than ever. Today, I’ll examine the first case of another one who’s “stuck on stupid,” to quote another favorite phrase of mine from Lt. Gen. Honore.

Let’s start this two-part series in Canada, where overall crime is 50% higher than the crime rate in the United States, according to a recent study. Why would Canada, where Michael Moore so famously staged his “friendly open door” stunt for his ant-gun hit piece, “Bowling for Columbine”, be suffering from an unprecedented increase in crime? Looking to its “violent” neighbor to the south, the U.S. has seen an overall reduction in crime for over a decade. What could possibly explain the sharp increase, then, in a country so closely tied to the U.S.?

While undoubtedly Canada’s lenient sentencing laws and lack of penalties for felons who commit crimes with guns has much to do with their current crime problem, a recent move on the part of their government bears, I think, a large part of the blame. Canada decided recently to enact a sweeping ban of handguns and is considering the same for long guns.

Rather than follow the policies of its southern neighbor, the United States, relaxing ridiculous gun control laws, Canada chose to behave more like its sister countries of Great Britain and Australia where similar measures have, amazingly, also resulted in unprecedented increase in all forms of crime, including illegal gun possession.

How does Canada’s ultra-left wing government choose to deal with this failure of policy? Do they admit the bans are a mistake and repeal them? Do they get tougher on criminals who use guns? No, nothing that sane. They blame the United States for their gun crime. Apparently, even governments can develop a victim mentality. The consensus of the Canadian government is that because guns are so easily smuggled in across the U.S. border (not to mention Canada’s massively unguarded coastline), they cannot have their gun and crime-free utopia. The position seems to hold there that normal people become crazed criminals because guns are brought into the country. Stuck-on-stupid. I just like that phrase.

Actually, they’re learning, as Britain and Australia have been, that forbidding law-abiding citizens the means to protect themselves leaves them vulnerable to a criminal element that has no qualms or difficulty getting weapons illegally, regardless of what law exists. Criminals, it seems, don’t want to abide by the law. I’ll pause for those who had to gasp in shock.

All better? Let’s continue. This is just common sense, but common sense that escapes the ultra-Left. And it is a reality, another thing that often escapes our liberal brothers and sisters. If a criminal knows that it’s very likely his target is unarmed and he is armed, what is his motivation to not commit the crime? He can assume, correctly, that the police will be overwhelmed and thus slow to respond. So, why not? R@pes, homicides and home invasions are the most common crimes that increase when guns are outlawed. Realistically, how does a province or nation decrease such a crime wave?

There are two primary ways. Law and punishment could become more draconian, although Canada so far isn’t willing to do that for these sorts of crimes. Alternatively, you could allow people the means to defend themselves, but Canada seems unlikely to do this, either.

Already, Toronto is becoming more violent than New York City. Violence will spread from the larger cities to the smaller ones until violence is endemic. Violent criminal enterprises like cigarette smugglers will continue to operate, but with greater freedom, in the rural areas. Canadians will suffer because of this “great social experiment” of their liberal government.

Not only does the government of Canada not get it, but “progressives” or, calling them for what they are, far-Leftists here in the States don’t either. This should serve as another lesson why, despite the Left’s protestations to the contrary, the United States should never want to be like Canada.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Marxist Principles in Our Governments?

Say it ain’t so. I’ve heard it said that if you review Marxist principles, you’ll find many are alive and well in the functioning of state and federal governments. With the recent stirrings of eminent domain in the news, and given Marx’s obsession with property, I thought it worth visiting the den of the Marxists at itself and putting that statement to the test.

Below is a list of issues taken from that site in discussion of how the general Marxist rev will overtake a society. My comments are below each point.

Democracy would be wholly valueless to the proletariat if it were not immediately used as a means for putting through measures directed against private property and ensuring the livelihood of the proletariat. The main measures, emerging as the necessary result of existing relations, are the following:

(i) Limitation of private property through progressive taxation, heavy inheritance taxes, abolition of inheritance through collateral lines (brothers, nephews, etc.) forced loans, etc.

Out of control property tax and a rather exorbitant inheritance tax certainly fits this bill doesn’t it? Inheritance isn’t, of course, abolished, but arguably you could see how it’s frowned upon by “progressives”. Do we need to say more? Property tax has become the favorite tool for funding local government and penalties for not paying rise to the level of confiscation of that property. If that isn’t a pure application of Marxism, I’m not sure what is. But, as a County Auditor once told me, such thoughts that property tax could be limited or abolished are “naïve”.

(ii) Gradual expropriation of landowners, industrialists, railroad magnates and shipowners, partly through competition by state industry, partly directly through compensation in the form of bonds.

Let’s try this one word answer to the above. AMTRAK. The rest, you should be able to fill in.

(iii) Confiscation of the possessions of all emigrants and rebels against the majority of the people.

Replace rights with possessions, which technically they are, and yes this is most certainly an agenda of the Left that has thoroughly infected government, from the legislative to the judiciary. And it doesn’t have to be a minority, it can be whatever boogeyman the Left wants to empower their cause against. That’s the beauty of this new Left.

(iv) Organization of labor or employment of proletarians on publicly owned land, in factories and workshops, with competition among the workers being abolished and with the factory owners, in so far as they still exist, being obliged to pay the same high wages as those paid by the state.

No competition certainly works, doesn’t it? It’s also the norm in government-inspired monopolies. The U.S. monopoly on first-class mail comes to mind. No competition leads to complacency and inefficiency, but that’s exactly what much of the state governments and the fed practice in the industries they’ve come to control. As to the state workers making more than private sector, though, with the exception of the feds, I’d have to call that a cause that’s been lost. State and local workers usually make much less than the private sector.

(v) An equal obligation on all members of society to work until such time as private property has been completely abolished. Formation of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.

I don’t think we’re there quite yet, though there are certainly forces that could be described as “leaving the fringe for the main” on the Left who advocate the elimination of private property. Eminent domain’s callous and willful taking of the land for any and all reasons goes a long way to devaluing property owner’s rights as well.

(vi) Centralization of money and credit in the hands of the state through a national bank with state capital, and the suppression of all private banks and bankers.

Federal Reserve. Banks are basically subordinate to it and its diktat’s.

(vii) Increase in the number of national factories, workshops, railroads, ships; bringing new lands into cultivation and improvement of land already under cultivation – all in proportion to the growth of the capital and labor force at the disposal of the nation.

Land management issues by environmental groups, the intellectual successors of the Marxists, have greatly accomplished this very thing. If you’re land has a “navigable waterway”, wetland, or “historic or scenic site” as designated by a government entity, your land is already not your own to do with as you please.

(viii) Education of all children, from the moment they can leave their mother’s care, in national establishments at national cost. Education and production together.

A bloated public education system is the result of this basic tenet of Marxism. The resistance against private and home schooling comes from those who believe the state knows better how to raise your child than you do. The child is not a child to them. It’s a little social experiment they can mold and shape into their own little Leftist minion.

(ix) Construction, on public lands, of great palaces as communal dwellings for associated groups of citizens engaged in both industry and agriculture and combining in their way of life the advantages of urban and rural conditions while avoiding the one-sidedness and drawbacks of each.

Well, there’s certainly no shortage of stupid sculptures and ridiculous monuments built and being proposed to fit the general theme of this bill, but I can’t recall any palaces off the top of my head. Like they say, though, you gotta start somewhere.

(x) Destruction of all unhealthy and jerry-built dwellings in urban districts.

Urban renewal. This is more eminent domain at its finest. They’ve already done it, and even the most individual-right loving legislators seem hesitant to pull back from this narcotic power.

(xi) Equal inheritance rights for children born in and out of wedlock.

More of a moral issue, but the devaluation of family in our modern society could be seen as success for this principle as well.

(xii) Concentration of all means of transportation in the hands of the nation.

Didn’t really work in the more rural states, although it has taken hold quite significantly in places like New York. Proponents will still argue against the individual being able to so freely move about. It’s never couched in those terms, though. Usually it’s an environmental/energy issue, the new battleground of the Left.

It is impossible, of course, to carry out all these measures at once. But one will always bring others in its wake.

That it is. Always remember, baby steps you little Marxists… baby steps. This was the 20th Century. We see its effects in our every day lives, as outlined above. So did we really defeat Marxism, or did those in power just convince themselves they knew just the right combination of our old ways and Marxism to make something they thought was better? I can’t see the better of it. Less freedoms, more taxes and more government control at the federal level seem to me more of a loss than a victory over Marx. I wish I could say otherwise. Something to think about, isn’t it?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Government’s Domestic Big Stick

The issue of the abuse of eminent domain has remained a hot-button topic in central Indiana. Recently, the company of N.K. Hurst has found itself center stage as the newly-minted Stadium Authority seeks to claim its land by force.

The N.K. Hurst Company, a long-time downtown Indianapolis resident, has weathered the urban blight and decay of the 70’s and stayed downtown in good times and bad when most other businesses fled for the suburbs. Now that its site rests partially on the land the Stadium Authority covets for VIP parking, the old axioms of “Hoosier Hospitality” and Hoosier Tradition” get thrown out the window. The Stadium Authority has made it clear that it has no desire to negotiate further in an attempt to reach a reasonable and just compromise. Its filing of a petition of eminent domain indicates it has chosen to bully the little company to get what it wants.

According to the company’s representatives, they have been pushing for a “land swap” deal to maintain their current location and still provide the necessary land, approximately 4 acres, in exchange for a comparable piece of land elsewhere. This is not an unusual or abnormal request in such negotiations. It is usually seen as a cheaper and less legally messy alternative.

The Stadium Authority has seen fit to ignore or drag its feet on such offers and has made it clear that if N.K. Hurst will take their offer, reported to be around $3.7 million and get off their land. No “or else”. No negotiation to it. When eminent domain is exercised, it is the equivalent of sticking a gun in the property owner’s face. Although legally the courts have declared this action acceptable, such an action is morally criminal and reprehensible.

The Indianapolis Star has made its position clear on this issue. Weighing in with its heavy editorial page, it sees a company who is using the press to help it “negotiate” and believes that because the courts have argued in favor of the taking of such property for stadiums, it is legitimate. Way to tow the party line there, Star. Like many papers, the Star usually trumpets the right of the state to take private property for some socialist endeavor.

Make no mistake. That’s exactly what this is. The ultimate example of corporate welfare, building a multi-million dollar arena at taxpayer expense so that other millionaires can will have a new place to play football is perhaps one of the more audacious socialist abuses any state undertakes. If the state can give money to such a cause, why shouldn’t it be able to give it to the other “robber barons” of modern society? If it is reprehensible to provide corporate welfare to oil companies, banks, investment houses, and pharmaceutical concerns, why is it ok to give it to sports figures? There is no difference and this is not an issue where you can cherry-pick the beneficiary. For an excellent coverage and additional commentary on this, head on over to Mike Kole’s “Kole Hard Facts”.

This is not just a corporate welfare issue, though. If the state protests that it wishes eminent domain to be used only sparingly and not abused, then it must practice what it preaches. We need examples, not just empty rhetoric. Otherwise, by action after action, it condones the tyrannical conquest of the property and rights of the individual by an unresponsive and despotic government.

Eminent domain compensation must also be fair and JUST. Legislator David Wolkins, in chairing a committee on this issue late last year, continually emphasized that, while he thought such takings typically offered a fair value for the land, often the “just” part of the equation was lost. I agree. Too often in fact the government is a schoolyard bully, a petulant child. The only way it seems to notice when it’s defying the will and rights of the people is when you smack it across the face.

To the Star, I challenge you to show how such a taking or its prior “negotiations” have been just. To the Stadium Authority, I know you cannot provide such, but I invite you to try all the same. You had a chance to show that the Legislature’s words mattered and that you could be reasonable and just. Instead, you would smash those that get in your way and blacken the eye of justice in our state. I would say “May you reap all the shame and just desserts you so richly deserve” from this, but you won’t. Even if you do, it will be We the People who suffer. We suffer the indignity of your socialist existence and Stalinist tactics carried out in our name and we suffer financially should you ever fail.

How did we end up so poorly represented?

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Fairness Doctrine and Why It Is Blissfully Deceased

I often hear the argument from the Left that for all the talk of being "balanced", talk radio is overwhelmingly dominated by conservatives. They further argue, if conservatives really believed in "balance", they would agree to an equal amount of liberal talk radio shows to counter the conservatives, thus resurrecting the old argument from the Fairness Doctrine.

Never mind that in the history of the Fairness Doctrine, it was primarily used as a political weapon to bully popular but politically damaging points of view from the air waves. The Fairness Doctrine, like most things left of center, sounds noble. Don't let one opinion dominate, give everyone equal time. When you're talking about a government-funded company, one that doesn't have to compete in the free market, say like Public Radio, that makes sense. I've never seen it practiced, but it makes sense. The rest of radio and TV operates in the free market entirely, however. It makes no sense in any fashion for them to have to air programs that don't generate ad revenue to keep the station going.

If liberal radio was popular, which it isn't, it would succeed on its own, but it doesn't. It must exist in a refuge or with very wealthy individual contributors or occasionally even through seedy means like defrauding charities. The last was a cheap shot, I'll admit, but an accurate one.

The idea of offering a "fair shot" is what the free market is all about. Go out there, air your product, in this case political talk radio, and see what the public wants to hear or believe. From the look of the last few years' Arbitron ratings, that's overwhelmingly conservative talk radio. Very few care to listen to Air America or any one of the couple dozen "Liberal's answer to Rush Limbaugh" hosts that aired and then faded just as quickly. Where are you Mario Cuomo?

Yet, I still to this day hear on the radio and read on the web leftists arguing for "equal time". I'm often inclined to ask if we should give equal time to other divergent points of view, like Klan members, the Nation of Islam, MEChA, and any other political organization that feels it should get a chance to air its views. I didn't just pick those organizations out of a hat. It's the free market. The left started the whole "marketplace of ideas" schtick to begin with. It doesn't just mean ideas with which you happen to agree.

Fairness Doctrine, R.I.P.

Oh...and Happy New Year...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

With the New Year come new bugs it would seem. Some posts are having trouble getting out, so my next couple of updates may be delayed until I can sort this out. Until then, don't forget to start making out your checks 2006. ... I was trying to start the New Year's off with some helpful advice.