Not enough scandals for you? Here, have four more!


**Posted by Phineas

Via Gabriel Malor at Ace’s, who laments that the misbehavior at the EPA has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed so far by the IRS, NSA, Rosen, and so many other stories. He collects them all in a handy post, but here’s a summary:

  • Remember former Administrator Lisa Jackson’s hidden email account using a fake identity? Well, that non-existent person somehow won a departmental award.
  • The Freedom of Information Act is supposed to enhance government transparency by establishing procedures by which people can demand access to information. But, in the bureaucratic Mandarin Land of today’s EPA, only conservative groups have to pay for the information — and pay a lot. Naturally, leftist groups regularly get waivers.
  • Contractors turning public property into man-caves.
  • This is the bad one: the EPA released the personal information of 80,000 farmers and ranchers to radical environmentalist groups. But, don’t forget, we can trust the government with our private information.

Read the rest of Gabe’s post for more, and some acerbic analysis.

Meanwhile, I’m adding EPA to the list of government agencies that Congress needs to have taken out back and shot (1). It seems to be growing by the day (2).

(1) Dear PRISM: that’s called a figure-of-speech. Don’t flag me, bro!
(2) Phineas’ List of Government Departments To Scrap, A Work In Progress:

  • EPA
  • IRS
  • HUD
  • HHS
  • Commerce
  • Labor
  • Education
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Agriculture
  • Homeland Security

Some of these may well have necessary functions worth preserving — the Census, for example — but I’m willing to bet 80-100% of each could be dumpstered, saving us a lot of money and headache.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Oh, no. This won’t set off conservative and libertarian alarm bells at all.


**Posted by Phineas

"The State watches over you"

“The State watches over you”

I mean, what’s so threatening about a biometric database of all adult Americans being in the immigration bill, citizen?

The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S., in what privacy groups fear could be the first step to a ubiquitous national identification system.

Buried in the more than 800 pages of the bipartisan legislation (.pdf)  is language mandating the creation of the innocuously-named “photo tool,” a massive federal database administered by the Department of Homeland Security and containing names, ages, Social Security numbers and photographs of everyone in the country with a driver’s license or other state-issued photo ID.

Employers would be obliged to look up every new hire in the database to verify that they match their photo.

This piece of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act is aimed at curbing employment of undocumented immigrants. But privacy advocates fear the inevitable mission creep, ending with the proof of self being required at polling places, to rent a house, buy a gun, open a bank account, acquire credit, board a plane or even attend a sporting event or log on the internet. Think of it as a government version of Foursquare, with Big Brother cataloging every check-in.

Emphasis added.

Nah, there are no 4th Amendment illegal search and privacy concerns here. Nothing to see, carry on. After all, wingnuts, you demanded greater security in the immigration bill and, well, here ya go! The government will make sure only bona fide Americans get jobs by keeping track of each and every one of us. And if they should find other uses for the information, well, that will be for the public good, too.

And you thought Person of Interest was just fiction.

If this Wired story is true, this provision is reason enough to kill the bill.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Study: #BigGulp bans would likely INCREASE soda consumption, obesity


Paging Mayor Bloomberg and other elitist nanny-state types:

Attempts to outlaw mega-sized sugary drinks, like New York’s controversial soda ban, could have the unintended consequence of increasing soft drink consumption and obesity, research suggests.

In a study published in the April issue of PLoS One, researchers examined whether price trumps portion size when it comes to consumer soda buying habits.

The behavioral simulation study found that people purchased more soda when offered deals on multiple smaller-sized drinks, suggesting that a ban on container size will not work if businesses have an economic incentive to offer ‘bundled’ drinks at reduced prices.

A New York State Supreme Court Judge struck down NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s ban on extra-large sugary drinks last month, a day before the law was to go into effect. The city is appealing the judge’s ruling.

The law would have prohibited the sale of many sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 ounces at businesses regulated by the city health department, including national restaurant chains like McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. But businesses not regulated by the health department, like grocery and convenience stores, would be exempt from the ban.

In striking down the law Judge Milton Tingling called the proposed regulations “arbitrary and capricious.”

Critics agree, and one major concern is that businesses selling sugary sodas will find ways around the ban because the drinks are so profitable.


New York University professor of nutrition and author Marion Nestle, PhD, who supports the soda ban, concedes the point. But she said the study does little to convince her that people will buy two or three sodas instead of one just because they get a better price.

“Sure, some businesses will do everything they can to increase sales,” she told MedPage Today.“Sodas are cheap and they make huge profits on them. But I’d like to see the portion-size cap tried at least. Let’s give it a chance before dreaming up reasons why it won’t work.”

It’s an absolute no-brainer that businesses can and would easily find ways around the Big Gulp ban by offering deals on 16 ounce sodas, including lower prices, free refills, etc – and they would be stupid not to, especially considering how hard it already is for people to make ends meet in this wreckovering economy, families in particular.

But, hey, as Professor Nestle inadvertently reminds us in the quote above: Don’t let the facts [the study results mentioned in the piece, which you should read in full] stand in the way of a professional liberal who knows better how to control your portion sizes than you do.  Just shut up and obey, dammit!

My body, my choice

Heh! Photo via Stan Brooks/1010 WINS, as seen on CBS NY’s website.

NYT op/ed writer: Quit yer b*tchin’, and embrace the nanny state!


The writer of this opinion piece – author and Bowdoin College assistant philosophy professor Sarah Conly – is not an official member of the NYT’s editorial board, but her drool-fest over Bloomberg’s nanny-state power grabs make her a strong contender should an opening become available (bolded emphasis added by me):

WHY has there been so much fuss about New York City’s attempt to impose a soda ban, or more precisely, a ban on large-size “sugary drinks”? After all, people can still get as much soda as they want. This isn’t Prohibition. It’s just that getting it would take slightly more effort. So, why is this such a big deal?

Obviously, it’s not about soda. It’s because such a ban suggests that sometimes we need to be stopped from doing foolish stuff, and this has become, in contemporary American politics, highly controversial, no matter how trivial the particular issue. (Large cups of soda as symbols of human dignity? Really?)


We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life. Give us complete liberty, and, barring natural disasters, we’ll end up where we want to be. It’s a nice vision, one that makes us feel proud of ourselves. But it’s false.


A lot of times we have a good idea of where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable miscalculations.


We also suffer from a status quo bias, which makes us value what we’ve already got over the alternatives, just because we’ve already got it — which might, of course, make us react badly to new laws, even when they are really an improvement over what we’ve got. And there are more.

The crucial point is that in some situations it’s just difficult for us to take in the relevant information and choose accordingly. It’s not quite the simple ignorance [John Stuart] Mill was talking about, but it turns out that our minds are more complicated than Mill imagined. Like the guy about to step through the hole in the bridge, we need help.


Do we care so much about our health that we want to be forced to go to aerobics every day and give up all meat, sugar and salt? No. But in this case, it’s some extra soda. Banning a law on the grounds that it might lead to worse laws would mean we could have no laws whatsoever.

In the old days we used to blame people for acting imprudently, and say that since their bad choices were their own fault, they deserved to suffer the consequences. Now we see that these errors aren’t a function of bad character, but of our shared cognitive inheritance. The proper reaction is not blame, but an impulse to help one another.

That’s what the government is supposed to do, help us get where we want to go. It’s not always worth it to intervene, but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is. That’s why we have prescriptions for medicine. And that’s why, as irritating as it may initially feel, the soda regulation is a good idea. It’s hard to give up the idea of ourselves as completely rational. We feel as if we lose some dignity. But that’s the way it is, and there’s no dignity in clinging to an illusion.

Let me repeat that: “but sometimes, where the costs are small and the benefit is large, it is.”  Even if the “small cost” is giving up your individual liberties bit by precious bit until none are left? Oh hell no, lady. I don’t think so!

This is the mind of the typical leftist: There is no such thing as personal responsibility – because you’re too stupid to take care of yourself and therefore Uncle Sam has to step in to “help” you control your diet, and anything else they decide is beyond your scope of being able to manage.  Anne Sorock at Legal Insurrection adds:

If Conly’s “Three Cheers for the Nanny State” is the best retort to New York Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling’s take down of the Bloomberg ban, which the Justice referred to as “fraught with arbitrary and capricious consequences” and an “administrative leviathan” that would “eviscerate” separation of powers, then it is time to rejoice and give three cheers for Conly’s reveal of the left’s mental state.


Conly, educated at the bastions of high thinking Princeton (BA), Cornell (MA), and Cornell (MA), may be as fine an advertisement against the left’s thinking (as well as an Ivy League education) as any messaging campaign the RNC would hope to undertake.

Indeed.  Beware.

Hat tip: Mememorandum

The greatest issue facing America: a cruise-ship passengers’ bill of rights


**Posted by Phineas

And Chuck Schumer is on the case:

Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the cruise ship industry to adopt a “bill of rights” to guarantee passengers certain protections while aboard their ships.

The New York Democrat says Sunday he’ll be asking industry leaders to voluntarily adopt the guidelines which include guarantees that ships have sanitary conditions, back-up power, medical staff and other standard procedures.

Schumer’s plan would also include the right to a full refund if a trip is abruptly canceled due to mechanical problems.

And thus we see the modern Democratic Party’s priorities in action: no budget from the Senate in more than 1,400 days? Bah! The threat of a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea? Don’t waste my time! Food-stamp usage at an all-time high while labor force participation is at a record low? Small potatoes, friend.

No, as we see from the senior senator from New York’s example, what really matters is grandstanding whenever possible and wherever cameras and mics are available, so that you can pretend you’re fighting for the little guy and convince enough saps to vote for you again.

This also shows the different mindset of the limited government advocates on the one hand, and the statists on the other.

Limited Government Advocate:

“A company that provides poor service will eventually put itself out of business, and those who feel harmed by it have access to the civil courts. Annoying as these incidents are, it’s really none of the federal government’s business, and we should get back to tending to what properly is.”


“This is an outrage! People need our protection against evil corporations; the government must do something! What? They already have redress under the law? They can take their business elsewhere? Insufficient! We must pass new laws, because that’s what we’re here for — to pass laws! Not in our purview? Nonsense! We’ll pass a law to make it our business! Call a press conference!”

Is it any wonder people are disenchanted with our political class, when so many of them ignore the real problems we face and instead go chasing butterflies?

via Liberty Unyielding

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Presented for your approval: Marco Rubio and Rand Paul school Barack Obama


**Posted by Phineas

So, last night was the State of the Union address. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t watch. First off, Obama’s a tedious, hackneyed speaker, and listening to him for an hour would be painful. If you did, you’re made of sterner stuff than I.

Second, we know what he’s going to say. As I posted on Twitter yesterday morning:

And, from what I can see in the transcript, he mostly lived down to my expectations. (1)

But I was interested in the Republican response. For one, prior response speeches have ranged from indifferent to outright flops, but, as this was the first speech of Obama’s second term, there was a chance to begin anew and to lay the first paving stones on the road to 2014 and 2016. Also, the speakers were two men whose careers I’ve followed with interest: Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fl) and Rand Paul (R-Ky). Both, I think, gave very good responses, concentrating on philosophy over wonky policy details and providing an excellent contrast between our vision of limited government, liberty, and free markets, on the one hand, and Obama’s progressive dream of limitless government, statism, and dependency on the other.

First, Marco Rubio (2):

And then Rand Paul:

While I have points of disagreement with both men, I could comfortably, happily vote for either for president. Along with Governor Jindal of Louisiana, I think we have at least three strong candidates for 2016, and a great improvement over the last group.

(1) About that proposed $9 per hour minimum wage, indexed to inflation. I suggest anyone who thinks that’s a good idea look up the words “inflationary spiral.” Government should have no role in setting prices or wages, period. It’s just bad policy.
(2) You probably noticed the awkward moment when Rubio reached for a bottle of water. According to actor Adam Baldwin on Twitter last night, that was a sign that the producers screwed up and left the room too warm, which, when combined with the hot lights, left Rubio dying of thirst. He handled it well that night and this morning, though, making jokes about it and disarming the inevitable “OMG!! He drank water!” attacks from the Left. (Really, guys. Is that the best you’ve got?)

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The progressive war on the middle class: Kansas vs. California


**Posted by Phineas

A few days ago, reactionary liberal E.J. Dionne wrote a piece in The Washington Post, part of which he devoted to bashing states that implement conservative fiscal and governance policies. And he singled out Kansas, the state with perhaps the most “Tea Party” government, for a ritual “two minutes hate:”

In some states where Republicans control all the levers of power, they are rushing ahead with astonishingly right-wing programs to eviscerate government while shifting the tax burden toward the middle class and the poor and away from the wealthy. In trying to build the Koch brothers’ dystopias, they are turning states in laboratories of reaction.

As Neil King Jr. and Mark Peters reported in a Wall Street Journal article on the “Red State model,” Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has slashed both income taxes and spending. This drew fire from moderate and moderately conservative Republican legislators, whom he then helped purge in primaries.

Note the requisite invocation of the demon Koch brothers, lest any of the progressive faithful miss the clue that these conservative reforms are EVIL!!!

Anyway, Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll read Dionne’s screed and did something increasingly unusual for journalists these days: he looked for facts before turning on his word-processing program. Imagine that.

So, first looked at how things are going in Mordor Kansas:

If Dionne were to bother to visit Kansas, he would find a state with an unemployment rate of 5.4 percent, a full 2.5 points below the nation’s 7.9 percent average. Despite “eviscerated” state government spending, Kansas’ fourth- and eighth-graders beat the national average in both math and reading scores. The state’s 11.2 percent poverty rate is also well below the national 15.8 percent national average. And despite all those evil tax cuts for the rich, the gap between Kansas’ wealthiest and poorest citizens is also much smaller than the national average.

The most recent Jayhawk Poll showed Brownback enjoying a 55 percent to 37 percent approval rating. But I’m sure the backlash Dionne predicted is just around the corner.

Then he compared it to the progressive Paradise, my beloved California, where Democrats control the governor’s office and have super-majorities in the legislature:

At 9.8 percent, unemployment is a bit higher in the Golden State then in Kansas — or the rest of the country, for that matter. Despite California spending far more per student than most states, its fourth- and eighth-graders perform far worse on reading and math proficiency scores than the average American students. A third of all the welfare recipients in the United States live in California, and the Census Bureau reports that the state also has the nation’s highest poverty rate. Almost one-quarter (23.5 percent) of Californians live below the poverty line.

And there is plenty of wealth to go around in California, but it also has one of the nation’s highest levels of income inequality. According to the Census Bureau, it is getting more and not less unequal.

Oh, and Governor Brown’s claims that our budget is at last balanced turned out to be a total lie, too. No word about Kansas’ budget, but I’m willing to bet they’re in better far fiscal shape than we are. Even Albania is.

Anyway, based on just this brief comparison of two states that most embody, respectively, what Walter Mead has called the Red and Blue models of government, if anyone is waging a war on the middle class, it’s the liberal/progressive/statist Democrats. Instead of looking at conservative states and shrieking “My God, what are you people doing,” Dionne should look to places where “his way” rules and ask “My God, what have we done?”

PS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. That California isn’t yet in flaming ruins after decades of progressive misrule is evidence of just how powerful this state’s natural economy was and could be, again, if only the oligarchs in Sacramento would pull their heads out of their collective backsides — and their hands out of our wallets.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Another reason to like Tim Scott


**Posted by Phineas

Aside from the fact that the current representative and senator-designate from South Carolina has a good character, the right politics, and a clear-eyed view of our real problem, he worries all the right people:

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People isn’t too excited about the appointment of Rep. Tim Scott to South Carolina’s soon-to-be-vacated U.S. Senate seat.


Hilary Shelton, senior vice president for advocacy and policy at the NAACP, told The Daily Caller Monday afternoon that the group welcomed diversity in the Senate, but expects the new senator to work against the NAACP’s agenda.

“It is important that we have more integration in the U.S. Senate,” said Shelton in a phone interview. “It’s good to see that diversity.”

“Mr. Scott certainly comes from a modest background, experience, and so forth, and should be sensitive to those issues,” he said, referring to Scott’s impoverished single-parent upbringing in Charleston, SC.

“Unfortunately, his voting record in the U.S. House of Representatives raises major concerns,” Shelton said.

Shelton explained that the NAACP platform is crafted through an annual voting process which engages grassroots-level delegates who vote on the group’s national agenda. That agenda calls for an expansive role for federal government spending in black communities.

Because federal intervention has done such a bang-up job for Blacks. Just ask any beneficiary of the Great Society’s urban policies. And that War on Poverty? We fought it, and poverty won.

While Ms. Shelton does have some nice things to say about Congressman Scott, it’s clear her views are trapped within the statist, dependent, and identity-group paradigm that dominates the Democratic party. And yet Blacks are far worse off under Obama, who is pursuing those very policies the way an alcoholic chases a beer wagon.  But, to be honest, the NAACP stopped being an organization seeking the best interests of African Americans at the same time they entered into a monogamous relationship with the Democratic party. (Helpful tip: if you’re an interest group and you give yourself wholly and forever to one political party — they no longer have to take you seriously, because they know they have your votes no matter what they do.)

Meanwhile, here’s hoping that Mr. Scott has a long and fruitful career in the Senate and that, rather than coming round to the NAACP line, he encourages NAACP members to realize there’s another, better way to help Black Americans prosper.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

#FiscalCliff: The entitlement explosion in must-see charts


Ok, so I’m officially depressed now after seeing this. I knew it was really bad, but seriously underestimated the level.

Most Republicans understand this and know tough choices need to be made. Nearly all Democrats, on the other hand, think most entitlements should remain untouched and that instead we should just gut the defense budget. That always seems to be their default answer. In essence, they’re choosing to weaken our military over gradually but necessarily weaning the American people off of the safety net and in turn promoting individual/personal responsibility.

Big government is destroying this country – both literally and figuratively. And I blame Democrats for most of that.

(via @WooHooYoo)

Secession? No, try federalism


**Posted by Phineas

In the wake of the presidential election earlier this month, a lot of people expressed their disappointment with the results by submitting petitions for secession at the White House web site. Petitions were received from all 50 states, and there were several counter-petitions from progressives urging the government to let them go.

To be honest, and even though I signed South Carolina’s to support my friend Gay Patriot, I looked at these as just blowing off steam after a disappointing election loss, just as liberals fantasized about secession in 2004. I didn’t and don’t take them seriously.

My mistake, in at least one respect. As Prof. Glenn Reynolds points out in an op-ed in USA Today, petitions such as these and more serious secession movements in Scotland, Catalonia, and elsewhere arise from anger at a central government from which they feel alienated for various reasons. While the petitions themselves may not be serious, the resentment and irritation caused by being forced to obey one-size-fits-all laws you hate is very real. And, if left to fester, it can lead to more serious problems.

What’s the answer, if secession isn’t it? Reynolds looks back to the handiwork of a very smart group of men who came up with a solution suited to a large, diverse republic, and suggests we give federalism a try:

So what’s a solution? Let the central government do the things that only central governments can do — national defense, regulation of trade to keep the provinces from engaging in economic warfare with one another, protection of basic civil rights — and then let the provinces go their own way in most other issues. Don’t like the way things are run where you are? Move to a province that’s more to your taste. Meanwhile, approaches that work in individual provinces can, after some experimentation, be adopted by the central government, thus lowering the risk of adopting untested policies at the national level. You get the benefits of secession without seceding.

Sound good? It should. It’s called federalism (1), and it’s the approach chosen by the United States when it adopted the Constitution in 1789. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

Surely Reynolds wrote this with a wink and a smile, for federalism is the way were are supposed to operate, and our problems have grown as the federal government has usurped more and more of the states’ proper role, turning gradually from a government of limited powers to Leviathan. Consider it another way: the more the federal government tries to do everything, the less it can do anything well.  The national economy and health care systems are too large and too diverse, and there’s too much information coming in, for them to be directed top-down by a few hundred (or even a few thousand) pols and bureaucrats in D.C. The needs of people differ in various parts of the country, and the resources needed to even try to manage everything nationally wind up being diverted from those things only the federal government can do well, such as national security.

The solution, as Reynolds writes, is to recognize those spheres of competence and respect them, something that’s happened less and less since the progressive era. This isn’t to say that the enumerated powers of Article 1, Section 8 are the end all and be all; the Founders themselves recognized that the Constitution would sometimes need amending (2) –including granting the federal government more power– and put in place procedures for doing just that. It’s through ignoring those limits and procedures that we’ve reached a point whereat so many think, with some justification, that the United States Government is becoming a threat to their liberty and prosperity.

Change won’t be easy, and the genie of the progressive administrative state probably can’t ever be wholly put back in the bottle. But for the health of our body politic we have to keep trying.

(1) Also “states’ rights,” but that term was forever tainted thanks to defenders of slavery and Jim Crow hiding behind it, back in the day.
(2) And I do think several are needed to deal with the progressive-statist tendency to grab more and more power. Professor Randy Barnett’s Bill of Federalism is a great starting point for discussion. Oddly enough, in the wake of their defeat in 2004, progressives themselves were arguing for federalism. Bipartisanship!

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)