intersection

the Church, the State, and me

Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, therefore our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.
- St. Augustine of Hippo
Posts tagged "government"

From Debra Saunders at Real Clear Politics:

…But for the right, this is an issue of the Obama administration’s telling church-based groups that they must act against their deeply held beliefs. As House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy told me, the argument did not start with Congress. It was a response to Obama. “It wasn’t about birth control. It’s about religious freedom.”

The tables have turned. Abortion used to be a matter of choice. Ditto birth control. But now that they have considerable political power, the erstwhile choice advocates want to take away the choice of dissenters to opt out.

Choice is gone. Tolerance is musty memory. “Access” is the new buzzword — and access means free. Under Obamacare, employer-paid health plans can charge women copayments for necessary and vital medical services if they are seriously ill, but birth control is free….

What is more, Fluke asserted that if students have to go out and get their own birth control — because they chose to attend a Catholic institution — that hurts their grades. Therefore, Washington must force religious institutions to go against their deeply held beliefs and hand out birth control, if indirectly.

Washington has accomplished a great leap, from a plea for choice to a roar of entitlement.

No doubt, this approach works well with intolerant liberals who want to impose their views on others. But it is enough to cause some of us social moderates, who worry about the encroachment on religious and personal liberty, to go into the loving arms of social conservatives.

Read it all.

Great blog! Read early and often.

Fast & Furious strikes again. From the LA Times:

High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.

In all, 100 assault weapons acquired under Fast and Furious were transported 350 miles from Phoenix to El Paso, making that West Texas city a central hub for gun traffickers. Forty of the weapons made it across the border and into the arsenal of Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a feared cartel leader in Ciudad Juarez, according to federal court records and trace documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

These Fast and Furious guns were going to Sinaloans, and they are killing everyone down there,” said one knowledgeable U.S. government source, who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing investigations. “But that’s only how many we know came through Texas. Hundreds more had to get through.”…

Under Fast and Furious, begun in fall 2009, the ATF allowed illegal buyers to walk away with weapons in the hope that agents in Phoenix could track the guns and arrest cartel leaders…

And DOJ Sec. Holder is still stonewalling this investigation.

Don’t forget—guns released through Fast & Furious have been implicated in the death of at least one U.S. Border Patrol Agent and unknown innocent Mexicans. Answers on this were needed months ago.

Check it out.

More on the Fast & Furious ATF cover-up from Michael Walsh at the New York Post:

… After months of pretending that “Fast and Furious” was a botched surveillance operation of illegal gun-running spearheaded by the ATF and the US attorney’s office in Phoenix, it turns out that the government itself was selling guns to the bad guys.

Agent John Dodson was ordered to buy four Draco pistols for cash and even got a letter from his supervisor, David Voth, authorizing a federally licensed gun dealer to sell him the guns without bothering about the necessary paperwork.

“Please accept this letter in lieu of completing an ATF Form 4473 for the purchase of four (4) CAI, Model Draco, 7.62x39 mm pistols, by Special Agent John Dodson,” read the June 1, 2010, letter. “These aforementioned pistols will be used by Special Agent Dodson in furtherance of performance of his official duties.”

On orders, Dodson then sold the guns to known criminals, who first stashed them away and then — deliberately unhindered by the ATF or any other agency — whisked them off to Mexico.

People were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, including at least two American agents and hundreds of Mexicans. And the taxpayers picked up the bill.

So where’s the outrage?

There’s none from the feds. Attorney General Eric Holder has consistently stonewalled Rep. Darrell Issa, Sen. Chuck Grassley and other congressional investigators.

In a constantly evolving set of lies, Holder has denied knowing anything about Fast and Furious while at the same time withholding documents from the House and Senate committees looking into the mess while muzzling some witnesses and transferring others…

Read the whole article to see Walsh’s possible explanations for a government operation like this. None of them are pretty—but which of them are likely? Check it out.

Crony capitalism at its best. From Verum Serum (via Ace):

Out of the hundreds of out-of-work employees, vendors, investors and other creditors in the bankruptcy of government-backed solar-panel maker Solyndra LLC, one name stands out: the California Democratic Party.

Why California Democrats would be creditor to a company that received more than a half-billion dollars in federal loans to build a solar-panel plant isn’t clear. Even party officials say they’re not sure

Meanwhile (also taken from Verum Serum), the DoE did not disclose that it had been massively lobbied by Solyndra.

Check out Ace.

Makes you wanna go “huh?” The EPA at work:

The Environmental Protection Agency has said new greenhouse gas regulations, as proposed, may be “absurd” in application and “impossible to administer” by its self-imposed 2016 deadline. But the agency is still asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.

The EPA aims to regulate greenhouse gas emissions through the Clean Air Act, even though the law doesn’t give the EPA explicit power to do so…

These new regulatory efforts are not likely to succeed, the EPA admits, but it has decided to move forward regardless. “While EPA acknowledges that come 2016, the administrative burdens may still be so great that compliance … may still be absurd or impossible to administer at that time, that does not mean that the Agency is not moving toward the statutory thresholds,” the EPA wrote in a September 16 court briefing.

The EPA is asking taxpayers to fund up to 230,000 new government workers to process all the extra paperwork, at an estimated cost of $21 billion. That cost does not include the economic impact of the regulations themselves

Check it out, because it’s always easier to spend other people’s money.

From the Tax Foundation:

The President’s notions are not, however, grounded in fact. Let’s review the data on individual taxpayers first:
  • Recently released IRS data for 2009, shows that taxpayers earning over $200,000 paid 50 percent of the $866 billion in total income taxes paid that year, or $434 billion. Skeptics will say, “That’s because they earn the majority of the income in America. Not so. These taxpayers earned 25 percent of the $7.6 trillion in total adjusted gross income in the country that year.
  • The 2009 IRS data also shows that a record 58.6 million tax filers had no income tax liability that year. This means that 42 percent of the 140 million Americans who filed tax returns that year contributed nothing to the basic cost of government.
  • Millions of people received cash “refunds” in 2009 even though they paid no income taxes: Some 21 million nonpayers received $27.5 billion in refundable credits from the child credit; Obama’s Making Work Pay program gave out $12.8 billion in refundable credits to 32 million filers; The Earned Income Tax Credit program doled out $54 billion in refundable credits to 24.9 million filers; and, nearly 5 million filers received $3.9 billion in refundable Education Credits and roughly 1 million filers got $4.65 billion in refundable credits under the First Time Homebuyers credit program.
The data also shows that the corporate tax burden is extremely progressive as well.
  • In 2008, the roughly 1,900 largest corporations paid $152 billion in income taxes. This amounted to 67 percent of the $227 billion in total corporate income taxes paid that year.

Check it out.

At over 1,000 and counting, waivers granted to state and local governments, unions, and private businesses to opt out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (otherwise known as Obamacare) continue to grow. To find the complete list of who has been granted a waiver so far requires drilling down multiple levels at Health & Human Services (gee, it’s almost like they don’t want you to find it), but start there and then try and find the link to the Center for Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, then … actually, never mind—just google it. (As a matter of fact, the only list still displayed is an old one; it seems as though the “transparency” is gone.)

Three pressing questions worth considering (but I’m not addressing here) are:

  • If Obamacare is the panacea for health coverage problems in the U.S., why are so many clamoring for exemptions from it?
  • Why are some of those who pushed so hard for this legislation [unions and (former) Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) , I’m looking at you] among those requesting, and receiving, waivers from it?
  • Is it constitutional for the executive branch to unilaterally decide that legislation passed by the legislative branch allows for exemptions not mentioned in the law? For more, check out these two articles by Philip Hamburger, Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. He writes, in part:
More seriously, it raises questions about whether we live under a government of laws. Congress can pass statutes that apply to some businesses and not others, but once a law has passed — and therefore is binding — how can the executive branch relieve some Americans of their obligation to obey it?
Indeed, can even a small corporation get a waiver? Small businesses provide most new jobs, but the answer is obvious: Waivers are mostly, if not entirely, for politically significant businesses and unions that get the special attention of HHS or the White House. The rest of us must obey the laws.

Of course, the biggest practical question of all for businesses is who at HHS gets to decide who receives a waiver or not, and what criteria (if any) are they using to determine waiver status?

But, just so you know this isn’t something new, let’s take a look at the Great Toy Crisis of 2007. That was the year Mattel voluntarily issued recalls for over 19 million toys made in China because of concerns over lead paint and small magnets that could be swallowed. Congress immediately decided this, too, was a crisis that shouldn’t go to waste and called for legislation to (further) “protect” the consumer, even though there were no deaths reported from lead poisoning and only one death reported from swallowing magnets (and that was in 2005).

So 2008 saw the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), whose goal was:

To establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products …

One of the more onerous provisions of this new act was the mandating of independent third-party testing on all toys and children’s products (clothes, books, etc.) made for those 12 and younger. Small U.S. toy manufacturers were hit especially hard. They asked why their products, typically made of wood and natural material, should have to undergo expensive outside testing when lead was never a part of their manufacturing process. Small toymakers and toy shop owners banded together and formed the Handmade Toy Alliance to bring their concerns before Congress. In congressional testimony given in 2009, they reported that third-party labs were charging from $150 for testing simple wood blocks up to $4,000 for a wooden rattle—costs small manufacturers just could not afford.

Another unintended (aren’t they always?) consequence of this legislation was (and is) complete confusion in the second-hand resale market, with some bookstore owners removing all children’s books printed before 1985 in order to comply with very confusing and conflicting guidelines from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and some used-clothing vendors removing children’s clothes altogether.

But what does this have to do with government waivers?

Well, Mattel, the toy giant that first triggered the panic by bringing in contaminated toys from China, lobbied hard to get written into the CPSIA language that allows Mattel to oversee its own testing—no expensive independent third-party labs required.

Unlike the Obamacare waivers, Mattel’s exemption is allowed under the law, but the underlying issue remains the same: big government and big business, working together for their common good, or as the Beatles like to say,

I get by with a little help from my friends…

(Originally published on Ricochet)

The Mad Hatter from "Alice in Wonderland"

And why were hatters mad? Because in earlier centuries, hat makers used mercury to cure pelts used in some hats, and in so doing, inhaled mercury fumes. The result? Hatters often suffered mercury poisoning that caused neurological damage, damage that included confused speech, distorted vision, and lack of coordination.

Now the federal government has mandated that you put mercury in your home in the form of light bulbs (even as they warn you about it in your fish). As John Hinderaker of Power Line writes:

You could say that requiring Americans to remove pretty much all of the light bulbs now in use and replace them with bulbs that people don’t want is the ultimate in nanny statism, except that nannies don’t generally poison the children in their care.

In 2007, Congress passed (and to his eternal shame, Pres. George W. Bush signed) the Energy Independence and Security Act, an energy bill that placed strict efficiency requirements on incandescent bulbs in an attempt to phase them out beginning in 2012 and replace them with more expensive (but supposedly more energy-efficient) bulbs, the most popular being compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). One side effect of that legislation was the September 2010 closing of General Electric’s last major incandescent factory in this country and the laying off of 200 workers. Most of these jobs will head over to China, where many of the CFLs sold in the U.S. are made.

And what’s so bad about CFLs? The worst thing (among several) is that CFLs contain mercury, and exposure to mercury vapor is dangerous if the bulbs break.

So what happens when your new CFL does break? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) basically declares your house a hazmat area. (Please, go look for yourself, I’ll wait—check online here at epa.gov/cfl/cflcleanup.pdf)

Did you read the list? Before you can even start cleaning up, you’re supposed to do the following:

  • Have people and pets leave the room. (Why? Because mercury vapor is poisonous.)
  • Air out the room for 5 to10 minutes by opening a window or door to the outdoor environment. (Once again, why? Because the government has mandated that you put poison in your home.)
  • Shut off the central forced air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one. (Because we don’t want the mercury poison to travel throughout your home’s air system.)
  • Collect materials needed to clean up the broken bulb. (To clean up an incandescent bulb just requires my hands and a trash can. Now, according to the EPA, I will need: stiff paper or cardboard, sticky tape, damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes, and a glass jar with a metal lid or a sealable plastic bag.)

Who wants to bet that many people won’t follow these guidelines, and that 10 or 15 years from now, we will hear from the environmentalists that our ground water and landfills are replete with mercury and will require massive amounts of government funds to clean up?

Already, hospitals warn that CFL bulbs can cause migraines and epilepsy attacks. Others point out that CFLs don’t work well in colder temperatures and Americans will then be forced to use more heat (thus negating any gains in energy efficiency). CFLs don’t work well with dimmer switches, can take up to several minutes to reach full brightness, and the lifespan of the bulb diminishes when it’s turned on and off frequently.

But all that “don’t make no never mind,” because beginning January 2012, 100-watt bulbs will be declared unacceptable to the federal government and therefore no longer available to you. (The state of California, just to show it’s in the forefront of foolish ideas, upped their date to January 2011, so as of now, no more 100-watt incandescent bulbs for sale there.) This diminution of choice will completely disappear in January 2014, when the last remaining wattage, 40-watt bulbs, will be declared enemies of the environment and removed from store shelves. Then you can start worrying about your deadly mercury bulbs … if you haven’t already.

Am I stockpiling incandescents?

Why, yes. Yes, I am.

(And check out this as well.)

James Madison

James Madison had a true understanding of human nature, not through the religious lens of original sin, but through the political lens of recognizing that competition, fractiousness and motivated self-interest are inherent to the human condition, and these qualities would provide the best balance within the people (via political parties and state interests) and within the government itself (among the three branches as well as within each branch of government).

This vision is best outlined in his Federalist paper number 51, The Structure of the Government Must Furnish the Proper Checks and Balances Between the Different Departments, published in February of 1788:

…But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions

Check it out, and check out the Federalist Society, too.