"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."

Thomas Jefferson
Sept. 23, 1800

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Congratulations To Michael Steele

Michael Steele is the new Republican National Committee Chairman and ConservativeNC has his acceptance speech posted.

My favorite bit, "We will cede no ground on matters of principle." Amen.

We've Won


As Ed Morrissey says on the Hot Air blog this morning, "This is what victory looks like."

Iraqis are voting today in the first provincial elections of the post-Saddam era. Unlike the last two national elections, the minority Sunni community has finally embraced the polls as the best way to promote their interests.

Security has been tight and few mortars have been fired, but all-in-all the vote is going well and the Iraqis seem happy.

This would never have happened if Obama had his way two years ago. The world owes George W. Bush a ton of gratitude, maybe in a few years he'll get it.

Beware of "Localism"

The Obama administration may think they've found a way to silence talk radio critics without using the "Fairness Doctrine." The Heritage Foundation reports that "localism" may be used to allow local activist groups to prevent radio stations that carry right wing talk radio from renewing their broadcast licenses by claiming they don't serve the "community's needs" as defined by the left wing activist group. All of this could be put in place without a new law, just by changing the interpretation of licensing guidelines at the FCC.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ernest Hemingway's Cuban Papers Now Available


A complete collection of copies of papers from Ernest Hemingway's Finca Vigia estate outside Havana are now available at the JFK Library in Massachusetts, thanks to an agreement brokered by Rep James McGovern. Sounds really cool.

From the AP:

The archival replicas include corrected proofs of "The Old Man and the Sea," a movie script based on the novel, an alternate ending to "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and thousands of letters, with correspondence from authors Sinclair Lewis and John Dos Passos and actress Ingrid Bergman. The documents were previewed Thursday and will likely be available to researchers in late spring.

Ben Stein on the Stimulus Bill

Ben Stein has an article in the American Spectator bemoaning the mess that is the 680-page Stimulus Bill. If you wanted to put the money in the hands of those who need it most, here's an idea:

For the amount spent we could have given every unemployed person in the United States roughly $75,000.

We could give every person who had lost a job and is now passing through long-term unemployment of six months or longer roughly $300,000.

The whole article is great. Lets hope the Senate can stop this boondoggle.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dangerously Naive

President Obama gave his first television interview to an Arab network. OK, fine, I can see the attempt to reach out, to capitalize on his Muslim roots, but he's going to lead us into trouble. Obama is naive to the point of being ridiculously idealistic. He truly thinks his powers of persuasion can make all the world see us as friends. There are quite a few out there who don't have any desire to be our friends. They'll see Obama as weak, as a result, see the United States as a ripe target once again.

Talk may be cheap, but it can also be dangerous on the world stage. Better to be denigrated as a "cowboy" by effete Europeans than to be seen as weak by vicious, uncivilized madmen.

House Republicans Grew Spines

Maybe they learned a lesson from the last election. Maybe they pay more attention to Rush Limbaugh than the President would like, but all 177 House Republicans voted against Obama's Stimulus bill.

That took courage and conviction. They were, in fact, joined by eleven Democrats, making opposition to the bill bi-partisan. Think we'll hear one reporter refer to the "bipartisan opposition?" Me neither.

The Wall Street Journal has a great explanation of what this pork-fest contains.

On to the Senate!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Making Sense of the Stimulus Debate

Forbes.com has a very good article by Bruce Bartlett explaining the history of economists' thinking of economic stimulus from the 1920's onward. The whole article is great, but here's the conclusion:

Thus the argument really boils down to a question of timing. In the short run, the case for stimulus is overwhelming. But in the longer run, we can't enrich ourselves by borrowing and printing money. That just causes inflation.

The trick is to front-load the stimulus as much as possible while putting in place policies that will tighten both fiscal and monetary policy next year. As terrible as our economic crisis is right now, we don't want to repeat the errors of the past and set off a new round of stagflation.

For this reason, I think there is a better case for stimulating the economy through tax policy than has been made. Congress can change incentives instantly by, for example, saying that new investments in machinery and equipment made after today would qualify for a 10% Investment Tax Credit, and this measure would be in effect only for investments largely completed this year. Businesses will start placing orders tomorrow. By contrast, it will take many months before spending on public works begins to flow through the economy, and it is very hard to stop it when the economy turns around.

Stimulus based on private investment also has the added virtue of establishing a foundation for future growth, whereas consumption spending does not. As economist Hal Varian of the University of California at Berkeley recently put it, "Private investment is what makes possible future increases in production and consumption. Investment tax credits or other subsidies for private sector investment are not as politically appealing as tax cuts for consumers or increases in government expenditure. But if private investment doesn't increase, where will the extra consumption come from in the future?"

Basically, the program before congress is pretty backwards, putting to little money into the economy now and wasting valuable resources in the near future. Let's hope the Republicans in congress can force a little sense into this headlong rush.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good Advice

Yep, Pres. Obama's right on this one. The New York Post reports his advice to Republicans:

WASHINGTON -- President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

"You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.


He's exactly right. If you want to bankrupt your children and your children's children by poring trillions of dollars of pork-barrel money into the hands of a gigantic government Leviathan, you'd better not listen to Rush. If you want Democrat control of the federal and state governments for the foreseeable future, turn off the EIB Network now. If you plan on becoming yet another Drone For Obama, you're better off watch MSNBC than listening to El Rushbo.

Sadly, many of our elected Republicans, led by our last Presidential candidate, are heeding Obama's words.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

He Should Have Surrendered


You just can't make this stuff up. The former President of France was hospitalized after being attacked by his little foo-foo doggie. From The Daily Mail:

Former French president Jacques Chirac was rushed to hospital after being mauled by his own 'clinically depressed' pet dog.

The 76-year-old statesman was savaged by his white Maltese dog - which suffers from frenzied fits and is being treated with anti-depressants.

The animal, named Sumo, had become increasingly violent over the past years and was prone to making 'vicious, unprovoked attacks', Chirac's wife Bernadette said.

Do-Over

Breathe easy. In his first major act to save the nation from disaster, President Obama re-took the oath of office yesterday, thus preventing the possibility of a President Biden, or God forbid Pelosi. Thanks, Barry!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Snow On Oak Island

We had some rare snow on our little island today. Here's a video to commemorate the event.

video

The Inaugural Speech


The full text of President Obama's Inaugural Address is here, at the Washington Post. Sorry if I've not gotten in the spirit of this "historic occasion," but I was not impressed. Here's a few excerpts and comments.

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.


Ok, so far so good. A throw back to Jefferson's first inaugural and a mention of "founding documents," if not the Constitution by name.


That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.


This is where I have some problems. First off, lets be honest. Yes, we are in a recession, but there are no soup lines, gas lines or cities of families huddled around barrel fires under highway over-passes. Our nation is safe, the poor have air conditioning and cable TV and our people would be a lot more optimistic if they stopped hearing "The End Is Nigh!!!" every time they turned on their televisions. Methinks our new President wants to lower expectations by exaggerating the troubles of the nation he inherited.


In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.


Leaving aside the soldiers, who probably did fight as much for their children and possible children as to keep the man next to them alive, this is clap-trap. Our ancestors did what they did to make a better life for themselves. Not to get to Ayn Rand about it, but we have railroads not because someone thought his great grandchildren would like them, but because a greedy robber baron wanted to further his own wealth by building a monopoly.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

The "stale political arguments" will always apply. Personal freedom is the enemy of a powerful central government, and vice versa. They can not coexist. When one grows stronger, the other fades. We "cynics" will not give up the fight for personal freedom in the name of "common purpose."

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.


This is insulting to the people who have fought day and night behind the scenes to keep us safe. I can only hope Pres. Obama was only throwing his more wacko supporters a bone.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.


Amen. Well said.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.


Mr. President, most of us have never left these "old truths." Most of us love our country no matter who is in charge. We've just said goodbye to the finest example of a President willing to do that which is right no matter the personal consequences. Anyone who refuses to recognize that, who's patriotism depends on partisanship, is truly the "sunshine patriot" that Thomas Paine was so dismissive of.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

A fine ending, with the words of Thomas Paine as read by George Washington. Let's pray our new President truly understands their spirit and tries to live up to it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Point of Comparison

Before you watch the new President give his inaugural address, please give this one a read. Thomas Jefferson took office after watching those who helped write the Constitution all but tear it to shreds. Federal power was overshadowing the states, the Alien and Sedition Acts had eviscerated the First Amendment and Alexander Hamilton and his moneyed New England friends appeared ready to install a new Aristocracy. Jefferson stood against this, and for a return to individual rights and the rule of law as embodied in the Constitution.

This country is strong, and no one leader can tear us away from our heritage if we don't allow it. After the Age of Obama, we'll find our Jefferson to put things to rights.

Read this, and you'll be amazed how much applies to today. Let's see if the Constitution gets even one mention in the former constitutional law professor's speech.


Friends and Fellow-Citizens:

CALLED upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye—when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue, and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should I despair did not the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.
1
During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.2
Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter—with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens—a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.3
About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.4
I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose preeminent services had entitled him to the first place in his country's love and destined for him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past, and my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.5
Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make. And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.

Edgar Allan Poe at 200


Today would have been Poe's 200th birthday. The Wall Street Journal has a nice piece reflecting on his work. Here's some:

Praise for Poe is by no means universal. The reviews always have been mixed, even on large questions about his legacy. "Enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection," sniffed Henry James.

Yet there can be no doubt that Poe left a deep mark on literature. He invented both the detective story ("The Murders in the Rue Morgue") and the sequel to the detective story ("The Mystery of Marie Roget" and "The Purloined Letter"). An attraction to new technologies and cutting-edge ideas such as hot-air balloons, mesmerism, and cryptography made him a pioneer of science fiction. He could be a savage critic: "I intend to put up with nothing I can put down," he boasted.

Most important, Poe reshaped the horror story into a tool for probing the darkest corners of human psychology and his own disturbing obsession with death. Early detractors failed to share his vision and accused him of merely aping Gothic thrillers penned by German authors. Poe would have none of it: "I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul -- that I have deduced this terror only from its legitimate sources, and urged it only to its legitimate results," he replied, in a line that neatly sums up his philosophy of fiction.

O Canada


Our neighbors to the north get two big thumbs up. First, they deport AWOL US soldiers running from Iraq war service. Now they've denied Bill Ayers entry into the country.

I guess Ayers won't be getting that Canadian Ambassador job, huh?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What An Honor


North Carolina has four of the 20 most gerrymandered congressional districts in the nation, as picked by Slate magazine.

I'm so proud.

Aaaarrrhhhhh!!!!! Australian Booty!

A new Royal Australian Navy submarine commander has suggested booty as a recruitment tool for the service.

A NEWLY appointed Australian Navy submarine commander is in hot water for suggesting that women sailors wearing bikinis might help to boost recruitment.

Asked by the magazine "if female sailors all had to be hot and had to wear bikinis, would that help recruitment?", Commander Phillips is quoted as responding: "It would certainly get the right demographic of young men in. I'm not sure how feasible it is, however."

The Federal Opposition and feminists have called for action over the article and Minister for Defence Warren Snowden has described the comments as "utterly unacceptable".

Mr Snowden said they did not reflect "new generation Navy" and has called for an urgent review into the criteria for media approvals to ensure interviews "match the values of the ADF".

Just In Time

According to the Institute For Liberty, Obama's inaugaration festivities will produce CO2 emissions that would take the average household 57,598 years to equal. With temperatures falling like a rock all over the East coast this weekend, the resultant rise in global temperatures will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Prez!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Think McCain's Jealous?

Sen. Lindsey Graham took the opportunity of a photo-op with the president-elect to lick a new pair of boots. Graham, who is usually seen following Sen. McCain around like a puppy dog, defended Obama's tax law impaired treasury secretary pick and said he was amazed by the future president's popularity in Pakistan.

Great, just what we needed.

Public Campaign Financing Harms Free Speech

The John Locke Foundation released a spotlight report arguing that North Carolina's present public campaign financing scheme is unconstitutional. They make the case that a recent US Supreme Court ruling against the "millionaire provision" of the McCain-Feingold law invalidates the spending limits on opponents of publicly financed candidates under North Carolina's system.

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Davis v. Federal Election Commission struck down a federal law that punished congressional candidates for spending too much of their own money on their campaigns, Bakst said.

"Once personal spending on a campaign exceeded a threshold level, the federal McCain-Feingold law gave opposing candidates fundraising advantages," Bakst said. "This penalty on 'self-financed candidates' was called the Millionaire's Amendment."

"As the Supreme Court has made clear in its campaign finance cases, restrictions on spending money are equivalent to restricting a candidate's speech because money is necessary for political communication," he added. "The penalties in Davis were deemed to place a substantial burden on the free speech rights of these self-financed candidates. Justices also ruled there was no compelling interest for this type of speech regulation."

"Any reasonable interpretation of the Davis ruling would lead to the conclusion that North Carolina's taxpayer financing systems also would be unconstitutional," Bakst said. "As in the U.S. Supreme Court case, candidates in these North Carolina races are punished for spending too much."

"Traditional candidates -- the candidates who do not accept taxpayer dollars -- will trigger what are called 'matching funds' to their subsidized opponents, if they spend beyond a threshold level," Bakst added. "For example, if the traditional candidate spends $5,000 more than the threshold level, the subsidized candidate sees his taxpayer subsidy grow by $5,000 in matching funds."

Traditional candidates in North Carolina face an "even more significant burden" than the congressional candidates subject to the Davis ruling, Bakst said. "North Carolina's traditional candidates have little control over whether matching funds are triggered," he said. "That's because the state's law counts spending by independent groups, such as political action committees, against a traditional candidate's spending threshold."


With Governor Perdue pushing to expand North Carolina's public financing system, the Locke Foundation report is especially timely. No government, whether local, state or national, has a rightful role to play in the funding of political campaigns. If I want my money to help get out the message of a candidate, I'll send it to him or her. Using my tax dollars to fund the campaigns of people with whom I strongly disagree is a gross violation of my rights.

The idea that government money is free from the corrupting influences some see as inherent in private and corporate donations should have been put to rest once and for all by the Rod Blagojevich fiasco unfolding in Illinois. The answer to fair election funding is to allow unlimited private contributions that are disclosed on the Internet immediately after they are received. Everyone's free speech is protected and anyone can see who may be attempting to influence a candidate.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Climate Change News

The only sign of life issuing from Al Gore's cranium lately was his decision to stop railing against "global warming" and start railing against "climate change." This works well on the level of the "even a stopped clock is right twice a day" theory, as fears of boiling alive in the remains of arctic icebergs turn to fears of freezing solid in sunny, warm Madrid.

If you're having trouble keeping up, never fear, here's today's climate change round-up:

Pravda abandons all wishy-washy-ness and proclaims an ice age.

German meteorologists recommend that Slovenians stop wearing metal jewelery in pierced holes outside for fear of causing horrible freezing damage. Slovenia recorded a temperature of NEGATIVE 49 degrees Celsius. For those not good with their metric system, that is a whole lot colder than -49 F.

Slovenians who would rather wear their nose rings can help toward that end by simply running Google searches on their PC. Yep, searching on Google will cause global warming, and kill polar bears, but make it more bearable in Slovakia.

It's -78 degrees somewhere in Alaska. Of course, it IS Alaska.

It's snowing to beat the band in Madrid. Even Reuters admits this is a bit odd.

Britain plans to ban giant screen plasma televisions to help fight the rapidly increasing temperatures. This is part of the EU's effort to combat global warming. Is Slovenia in the EU?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Useful Idiot of the Day

Just in time to remind us who the worst president in the last 50 years really was, Jimmy Carter has an op-ed in the Washington Post today explaining how poor little Hamas keeps getting picked on by mean, nasty Israel.

The whole thing is sort of sickening in its useful idiocy, but this line really stands out:

And this fragile truce was partially broken on Nov. 4, when Israel launched an attack in Gaza to destroy a defensive tunnel being dug by Hamas inside the wall that encloses Gaza.

A "defensive tunnel", huh? Would that be one of the defensive tunnels used to smuggle in all those rockets being fired into Israeli towns perhaps? One has to wonder how Jimmy Carter can look himself in the mirror each morning.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Subprime Nation

Our whole country is headed into the situation that brought about the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Our trillion dollar-plus deficits have turned the country into an upside down mortgage. From The Corner:

Former U.S. comptroller David Walker has long been a leading advocate of fiscal sanity, and I called him today to get his take on the latest CBO budget-deficit projections ($1.2 trillion for next year, trillion-plus deficits for years to come). "If trillion-dollar deficit numbers for several years in a row don’t wake up Washington and America to the nature of our fiscal problems, then I don’t know what will," he says.

Walker says, "For the first time in the history of the U.S., the federal government owes more in liabilities [including unfunded commitments for Social Security and Medicare] than American households are worth." And that gap is widening, he says. "The fiscal hole is getting deeper, and household worth continues to decline."

This is really scary stuff, especially if you care a whit for the country our children will inherit. It's time, finally, to seriously start thinking about having the treasury buy as much gold as it can afford to over time to give our currency some stable value. It's painful in the short run, but may be the only thing to save us.

Not To Gloat, But...


Having a wife who's a print journalist, all I can say to the new survey reporting that more Americans get their news from the internet than from newspapers is "Neener Neener!!"

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jihad Bunny Mortally Wounded By Israeli Airstrike


Now they've gone too far. And why aren't Palestinian hospitals equipped with bunny-fitted oxygen masks? I'll bet that's just what Cynthia McKinney was trying to deliver last week when her yacht was rammed by the Israeli Navy.

Ancient Britons "Rocked Out" At Stonehenge

Was Stonehenge once the scene of stone-age concerts?

Dr. Rupert Till, Englishman, musicologist and founding member of the "Chillage People" (no, I am not making that up) thinks maybe Stonehenge was the site of music based ceremonies due to its strange acoustical qualities. He tested the acoustics on a computer model at Huddersfield University and on a life-sized replica of Stonehenge in Washington state.

The original Stonehenge probably had a 'very pleasant, almost concert-like acoustic' that our ancestors slowly perfected over many generations. Because Stonehenge itself is partially collapsed, Dr Till, used a computer model to conduct experiments in sound.

The most exciting discoveries came when he and colleague Dr Bruno Fazenda visited a full-size concrete replica of Stonehenge, which was built as a war memorial by American road builder Sam Hill at Maryhill in Washington state.

He said: 'We were able to get some interesting results when we visited the replica by using computer-based acoustic analysis software, a 3D soundfield microphone, a dodecahedronic (12-faced) speaker, and a huge bass speaker.

'We have also been able to reproduce the sound of someone speaking or clapping in Stonehenge 5,000 years ago.

'The most interesting thing is we managed to get the whole space (at Maryhill) to resonate, almost like a wine glass will ring if you run a finger round it.

'While that was happening a simple drum beat sounded incredibly dramatic. The space had real character; it felt that we had gone somewhere special.'



I'm not sure which is more exciting: knowing Stonehenge has a great sound, knowing there is a life-sized replica of Stonehenge in Washington state or knowing that there is a band called the "Chillage People."

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Obama Already On The Right Track

I hope that President-Elect Obama's silence on the Israel-Hamas conflict offers a look into his future administration. Keeping silent about events about which one has no clue is the beginnings of wisdom.

Barack Obama was elected as a symbol. He is a racial symbol to many, a progressive political symbol to some and to others simply a symbol of change in troubled times. Very few of Obama's voters know or care about his stands on Israel vs. Hamas, economics, auto bailouts, military tactics or anything else. They want him to go to the White House, look pretty and give articulate but inane speeches every now and again. He would be wise to indulge them.

The more time our new President spends playing shirtless basketball and the less time he spends actually doing anything of importance, the better off we will be as a country.

Classy


The bodies of a Hamas leader's children were paraded through the streets of Gaza today as the crowd vowed to avenge their deaths. It's hard to work up too much outrage over the deaths of the children of a man who sends his own son off on a suicide bombing mission.

As Israel's war on Hamas in Gaza moves into a ground offensive, please pray it comes to a quick and successful end. The people of Gaza will have no peace as long as they are lead by the likes of Hamas.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Fun Times In The US Senate

It may be time to tune into C-Span again next Tuesday. It seems that Roland Burris, the man Rod Blagojevich named to replace Barack Obama in the senate, plans to show up for work Tuesday despite the fact that Harry Reid has ordered the Capitol Police and Senate Sergeant-at-Arms to bar Burris from the senate floor.

Its fun to watch Harry Reid and Barack Obama act all indignant about the political cesspool in Chicago that gave rise to Obama's political career. They're trying everything they can to keep a Blagojevich appointee from taking a senate seat, but their hands are pretty much tied, constitutionally. The senate is allowed to set the "qualifications" of it's members, but not on a case-by-case basis. Article I section 5 covers this:


Section. 5.

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.

Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.

Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

The Seventeenth Amendment provides for the filling of Senate vacancies:

AMENDMENT XVII

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified April 8, 1913.

Note: Article I, section 3, of the Constitution was modified by the 17th amendment.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Once again, the Constitution gets in the way of the political comfort of the Democratic Party. Let's just see which is judged more important.

NC State Government Totally Incompetent

It's apparently not bad enough that the state of North Carolina let its employee health plan go bankrupt. Now, according to the News and Observer, they are unable to handle payroll. Not that they can't meet payroll, they'll find the money, they can't figure out how to pay their employees for the time they've worked. From the paper's article:

A new state payroll system continues to frustrate employees, who don't know from month to month whether they will be paid for all the hours they worked.

Workers have been complaining about the payroll system called BEACON since spring, soon after all state agencies were required to start using it.

After news reports in mid-August about underpaid employees not being able to pay their bills, Gov. Mike Easley ordered that all employees who were owed money be paid by the end of August, when then-State Controller Robert Powell was to retire. Powell's office oversaw the payroll system's installation.

But some employees say they are still not getting paid for all the time they've worked. A message in the state Department of Health and Human Services' November newsletter from its human resources director, Kathy Gruer, thanked employees for their patience while "complex pay and system issues" were being resolved.

No private sector business would be allowed to mess their employees paychecks up for months on end. The total incompetence of our state government is mind-boggling, yet thousands of state employees trust them with their retirement and health care. Most all of us trust them to educate our children. They plan our infrastructure, inspect our bridges, enforce our laws and help themselves to our hard-earned money.

But they can't figure out how to write a paycheck.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Prognostications


Well, 2008 is over is over and unfortunately didn't quite work out the way a lot of us would have hoped. With 2009 stretching out before us, I thought it would be fun to over some predictions of what the new year may hold.

National Review Online Predictions: These range from the gloomy to the just plain silly.

Andrew Heller's Absurd Predictions: predictions so ridiculous that they never come true. Of course they weren't ridiculous enough for 2008, so you never know.

ReadWriteWeb's Tech/Web Predictions: I don't pretend to understand half of what they write, but maybe you will.

Farmers' Almanac Winter Weather Predictions: More immediate, more accurate and tailored to your geographic region. How cool.

Forever Horoscopes 2009: Old school, but do the stars ever lie?

Blogging Stocks Economic Predictions: Not nearly as gloomy as you might think.

The Amazing Kreskin's 2009 Predictions: If he's named "Amazing" he's got to know what he's talking about. Right?

Bleacher Report's Sports Predictions: This guy needs a self-confidence course.

The Huge Blog's sports Predictions: This guy does not need a confidence course.