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Many of my more liberal friends profess to be outraged by the incipient racism behind the Arizona immigration law.  Setting aside the question of whether the law actually promotes racial profiling (there are many other, better places to find good information on that question), whether such profiling is a public good is a different matter entirely.  I don’t disagree that the idea of making law enforcement decisions solely on the basis of race is fraught with peril, if not outright unconstitutional.  But consider the following scenarios and see how you might react:

  • You are a tourist in Costa Rica.  You paid several hundred dollars for a room and bus travel to several exotic locales while in country.  Costa Rica has a lot of illegal immigration from Honduras, due to the high disparity in standards of living, employment, and political freedom between the countries.  Costa Rican police have set up checkpoints all over the countryside, where they inspect the paperwork of those traveling the roads.  When your bus arrives at a checkpoint, you realize you forgot your passport at the hotel.  The policeman, realizing that the resort bus is full of tourist gringos, never gets on board and allows it to pass without checking anyone’s documentation.  Should you, as a fair-minded liberal, be outraged that the driver of the car behind the bus (a Latino woman) was asked for her papers, and you were not arrested for failing to travel with yours?
  • Your daughter has been raped.  Based on her statements, a black man with what she believed was an African accent was the perpetrator.  She didn’t see her attacker’s face.  Responding to the APB, a policeman stops a man driving a Toyota with a Kenyan flag bumper sticker because he is driving 10 miles over the speed limit.  During the traffic stop, the policeman realizes the driver has a foreign accent he doesn’t recognize.  He asks for the man’s immigration paperwork, and he cannot produce it, saying he has been in the country for years.  Asked if he is a citizen, the man says no.  Lacking probable cause for a search on the basis of the rape, the policeman arrests the man for failing to carry his green card.  Subsequent investigation of his car and home on the immigration charge lead the police to evidence that prove he committed the rape.  Should you, as a fair-minded liberal, feel uncomfortable that your child’s rapist was detained and investigated on the basis of his immigration status (a question that was only raised because of a sticker on his car and his foreign accent), rather than on any evidence that he raped your daughter?
  • There is a bomb in the airport.  Security footage shows that a young woman in a pantsuit placed the bomb behind a trash can.  You have been detained, along with everyone who was on Concourse C at the time the bomb was found.  They are questioning everyone in alphabetical order.  You are an 72-year-old Asian man named Wang with diabetes who needs to check his insulin level.  You are prohibited from accessing your luggage until security has finished questioning everyone.  Your wife, who was walking back from the bathroom on Concourse B at the time of the incident, has been waiting with your test kit outside the interview room for five hours.  You are starting to feel lightheaded.  You’ve asked for medical attention, and they are calling for it now.  But as a fair-minded liberal, are you glad that your government is consistently applying the law by holding you for questioning?
  • You just took a new job, and you have been randomly selected for an audit of your I-9 form.  Although you presented a copy of your Social Security Card and birth certificate to your employer during orientation, you are now required to present them — along with five other forms of identification — to a federal agent two weeks after you start your job.  You also have to provide the names of seven references who can vouch for your citizenship.   A week later, you learn that one form of I.D. you presented was found to be inadmissible (the bureaucrat issuing the document spelled your middle name as “Jeffrey,” not “Jeffery,” although you’d never noticed before).  You are expected to present a replacement form of I.D. within 24 hours to the federal agent.  You aren’t sure where you’re going to get that, and it will require you to miss the day of work.  Having been at your job less than 30 days, you don’t have any paid vacation.  Your boss wonders why you’re being investigated by the federal government, but he begrudgingly offers unpaid time off to take care of it.  Two of your friends you used as references call and ask why they were asked if they knew where you had been born (they didn’t know — was that a problem?) by a U.S. Marshal.  You know that your great-grandparents arrived in this country in 1911 on a boat from Finland, and you’ve never left the country but once on a family vacation to Jamaica when you were 12.  You get your backup I.D. to the Federal Building one hour before the office closes, and you return to a pile of extra work from your skeptical boss the next day.  Are you, a fair-minded liberal, edified through this process that the Department of Homeland Security is wisely employing its resources to ensure that illegal immigration in this country is being curbed?
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You'll never catch him.

Item: Vice President of the United States Joe Biden says the former dean of Harvard Law school was right to punish the United States military for the United States Congress’s “very bad policy” of “don’t ask, don’t tell” by refusing to allow recruiters access to the school’s career services center.

In other truthy news:

Vice President Joe Biden pleaded with environmentalists on Tuesday to begin picketing the U.S. EPA for failing to institute a greenhouse gas “cap and trade” regime to combat global warming.  When asked why Biden would wish his own government’s agency be protested, Biden thundered that “climate change is a serious threat to the security of our country, and it’s very bad policy for EPA to postpone implementation of a cap and trade system.”  When reporters pointed out that Congress had not passed legislation authorizing EPA to implement cap and trade, Biden mumbled something about “sticklers for democracy” and left the podium.

At a recent photo op at a Peoria, Ill. bike manufacturer, reporters asked Vice President Biden what other government policies, if any, demand direct action by the public.  Biden replied that “those tax people need to be taught a lesson.  They don’t take enough from the rich!  If you’re middle class in America, just hold onto your tax check until you see all those rich oil executives pay their fair share.  That will get the IRS’s attention.”  It is unclear whether any Americans have taken the Vice President up on his suggestion, or if the IRS is responding to his direction.

This follows on an earlier incident in which Biden, while touring a Pennsylvania coal mine, was shocked to learn that coal was still being burned in power plants across the U.S.  “That’s outrageous!” Biden was heard to say.  “What crazy agency allowed that to happen?  Don’t they know that coal is dirty?  Dirty, dirty, dirty!  This has to stop.”  The mine supervisor who was leading the tour politely informed the Vice President that coal was a valuable natural resource, and that technology and regulation had corrected many of the problems coal-fired power plants had experienced in earlier decades.  Biden was not to be deterred, however, saying that the miners should walk off the job to protest the “very bad policy” that had allowed such dirty energy to be produced.  Bewildered miners took an hourlong break out of respect, but went back to work when the Vice President’s motorcade left the area.

Vice President Biden had earlier called for a general boycott of the Postal Service in November 2009 to protest the U.S. government’s failure to provide universal health care to all Americans.  Biden claimed that it was a “national tragedy” that a country as rich as the United States would fail to provide health care to everyone, and when he noticed that the Postal Service had issued a stamp series called “Miracles of Modern Medicine,” he considered the federal government’s “very bad policy” to be “so hypocritical as to demand immediate, nonviolent action against the government.”  Postal Service revenues plunged during the critical Christmas season, prompting an emergency rate hike.  When Biden learned that his comments had largely been blamed for the increase in postage rates, which made the medical stamps insufficient postage,  he told reporters that he “was proud to have ended that hypocritical stamp mess.  Now we’ve just got to fix the health care thing.”

As has previously been reported, when Congress passed health care reform legislation, Biden was recorded as saying “this is a big f–ing deal.” Sources have since learned that Biden made this comment after noting that it was his boycott of the Postal Service that had caused Congress to reform health care.  It is unknown if this result has led the Vice President to demand that Americans protest other federal policies that do not fit his progressive ideology.

The FDA has decided that your diet is far too savory.  It’s disappointed that you haven’t realized this on your own.  It’s understandable, of course, since salt has been a staple of the human diet since, oh, long before it was a form of currency.  But since you can’t be trusted to fix things yourself, the FDA will do you a favor and fix your food for you.

The government intends to work with the food industry and health experts to reduce sodium gradually over a period of years to adjust the American palate to a less salty diet, according to FDA sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the initiative had not been formally announced.

Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said. Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption. The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.

There is presently no statute that justifies the regulation of salt content in food.  No rule has ever set a “safe” amount of salt in any given food product.  To date, FDA has only required full sodium disclosure, allowing the consumer to make an informed decision about how she will regulate her salt content.  But we’re living in a world where EPA has decided that an biologically-benign, indeed botanically-necessary, atmospheric gas is a pollutant requiring massive regulation.  It’s not a very far step to prevent Americans from obtaining unlimited amounts of a naturally-occurring mineral that we all need to perform “basic biological functions.”

Although such a justification was not expressly made for this action, the FDA’s agenda here is an early example of how once the government pays for your health care, it makes everything you do the government’s business.  If you read the Washington Post article linked above, you may be saying, “Hey, Obamacare isn’t even mentioned in this article!”  And you would be right.  But the embedded logic of this move by the FDA will be used time and again to authorize the government to make decisions about your diet, your exercise routine, even your sexual habits.  That’s because, once the government is paying, it has virtually unlimited authority to condition its payments in ways that would be unconstitutionally coercive in other contexts.

Longstanding Supreme Court precedents, beginning in the New Deal era, have imposed only the flimsiest of boundaries on coercive requirements predicated on the receipt of federal funds.  A classic example is the Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Dole, upholding Congress’ refusal to give states federal transportation funds until they raised their drinking age to 21.  Justice Rehnquist, no less, held that the federal government’s interest in “safe interstate travel” was a sufficiently “reasonable relation” between drinking laws and roadbuilding funds to justify such a condition.

If it makes constitutional sense to parcel out road funds to states on the basis of when their legal adults can drink, how easy will it be for the Feds to justify the regulation of your salt content?  With its new mix of subsidies, tax breaks, mandates, and health care “marketplaces,” the federal government now has a monetary interest in how healthy you are.  If you are sick — or even if you’re not as healthy as you could be — that’s a matter of public concern.  We need to reduce the deficit — how better to do that than by reducing your salt content, making it less likely that the Treasury has to finance your heart transplant?  Far more inherently-risky activities — unprotected sex, smoking, drinking, even rock-climbing — could easily be outlawed on the basis of their threat to the government’s balance sheet.

That’s the dirty secret behind government health care — while it’s been sold as a response to the outrage of insurers’ heartless use of America’s preexisting conditions as a basis for higher rates, everyone knows that the only way to reduce health care costs is to change Americans’ behaviors.  Insurers try to do that with a mixture of carrot (rate reductions for gym memberships) and stick (higher premiums for type 2 diabetes patients), but in the end, it’s our choice.  Not so with government, which can perform the same task by using its regulatory power to prevent you from making those unhealthy decisions altogether – or else.

Of course, the government might decide that it’s cheaper to let you eat all the salt you want — and then refuse you that transplant.  Who is cheaper to care for, after all — a healthy person or a dead one?

The Enemy

1.  Am I the only one who looks at President Obama’s nuclear nirvana-seeking and sees a guy who, somewhere in his past, got an A+ on a term paper arguing that a nuclear-free world is achievable, and has believed ever since that he’s the guy to do it?

2.  If I had a hypothesis-proving time machine and took Pelosi, Reid, et. al. two years into the future to show them that by cutting taxes 5% for the upper 15% of wage-earners, they could achieve nearly-full employment by the time the 2012 elections roll around, would they still refuse to do it on principle?

3.  If Israel started denouncing the United States and threatening Iran’s security, would it get more support from this Administration?

4.  Were we to apply the same rules of nomenclature currently being considered for the War on Terror to our past conflicts, would we have been forced to refer to our Cold War adversaries as “ideologically-committed Eurasians,” or our German enemies as “highly-organized expansionists?”

and for a funny 5th…   Is this how Hillary deals with what must be her (and her party’s?) daily recognition that the wrong candidate beat John McCain?  Gotta say, I can’t begrudge her it.

Cheers!

President Obama’s decision today to tie America’s hands when it is attacked is so bizarre on so many levels.

It’s of a piece with many other pronouncements of this White House — they look good to their liberal buddies, everyone feels good about themselves, but they don’t really mean anything worth talking about.  Does anyone actually think that, if China gassed Manhattan, the Obama Administration would leave the nuclear option off the table?  If it would, the President should be impeached immediately.  And if Syria sponsored an anthrax attack in Mobile, we should feel just fine about lobbing a tactical nuke into Assad’s compound.  Making grandiose statements about what we would or wouldn’t do after incurring an attack from a foreign power involving weapons of mass destruction is just as ineffectual as President Bush’s announcement that Russia was no longer targeting the United States with its nuclear weapons.  The weapons were still there, and they could be re-targeted, but right now, at this moment…they aren’t aimed at us.  Comforting, eh?

The larger point, however, is that basic international — or interpersonal — relations require that when someone is threatening you with serious harm, you give them no comfort that greater harm might not come to them if they tried it.  You don’t issue quid pro quos, and you don’t make your own threats.  Those tactics reduce you to their level.

But to each and every scenario they might posit about ways to inflict pain and suffering on your people, as for the consequences, you want them to imagine the worst.  Thus is the way of deterrence.

When they ask the question Obama answered today — “If I launch a chemical warhead into your largest city, will you send five ICBMs into my population centers?” — you always want them to hear you say, “You never know.”

“If I send a horde of infected monkeys to infect all of Florida with a brain-wasting disease, will you explode a hydrogen bomb in my palace?”

“You never know.”

“When I lace your frozen blueberry supply with toxins so potent that hundreds of smoothie-consumers will keel over upon their first sip of the straw?  Would you really make my countryside radioactive for that?”

“You never know.”

“Could I just set off a terrible stink bomb,  coat a few dozen buildings with a really smelly substance, rendering the city uninhabitable for a couple of months?  Still nuke me then?”

“You never know.”

Why would you ever want to answer these questions with anything but “You never know?”  Why, as our President stated without irony today, would you want to do anything but “preserve all the tools that are necessary in order to make sure that the American people are safe and secure,” when no one was asking you to do anything different?  If Putin blew up a daisy cutter in Oakland, would Obama take his phone call so he can insist that, “Hey, Barack, buddy, keep your hands off that football.  You promised!”

In the end, I’m glad that our President thinks the process doesn’t matter in life — just the ends.  Because if he actually thought this silly process of setting the rules of Global Thermonuclear War actually mattered, I’d be much more worried.

"Would you like to play a game?"

Michelle B. Mathews/AMPAC/ECCI

With apologies to Wallace Stevens.

I.

Among fifty failing states,

The only moving thing

Was the cost of the health care bill.

II.

The CBO was of three minds,

Like a hopper

In which there are three health care bills.

III.

A health care bill swirled in the cloakrooms.

It was but a small part of the Big Lie.

IV.

A Reid and a Pelosi

Are one.

A Reid and a Pelosi and a health care bill

Are one.

V.

I do not know which to prefer,

The folly of the deceptions

Or the folly of the desperations,

The health care bill passing

Or just after.

VI.

Snowmounds filled the Capitol steps

With muddy puddles.

The shadow of the health care bill

Passed them, to and fro.

The mood

Traced in the shadow

An unfathomable doom.

VII.

Oh wise men of Congress,

Why do you dream of wonder cures?

Do you not see that the health care bill

Stoops beneath the feet

Of the system around you?

VIII.

I know high premiums

And frightful, inescapable long lines;

But I know, too,

That the health care bill is involved

In what I know.

IX.

When the health care bill moved out of sight,

It marked the start

Of one of many scandals.

X.

At the sound of health care bills

Read into the deep night,

Even the frauds of K Street

Would cry out sharply.

XI.

He flew over Connecticut

In a white bird.

Once a fear pierced him

In that he mistook

The shadow of his presidency

For health care bills.

XII.

Obama is speaking.

The health care bill must be losing.

XIII.

It was evening all afternoon.

It was snowing

And it was going to snow.

The health care bill sat

In the Speaker’s chair.