Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Governance

Good Governance
By Linda Chavez

Every member of Congress takes an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," but the newly elected 112th Congress will be the first in the nation's history to hear the text actually read aloud when the House convenes Jan. 5. The success of the tea party movement in the last election is the impetus behind the first public reading (the text has been inserted in the Congressional Record twice), and it sets the stage for the battles to be waged over the next two years. Many of the conservative newcomers think of themselves first and foremost as constitutionalists, but they will face challenges when it comes time to put their principles into action.

The incoming GOP House leadership has announced that it will adopt new rules requiring each piece of legislation to include a statement citing the specific constitutional provision authorizing Congress to enact the proposed law. The motivation is a sound one -- Congress has increasingly expanded the areas over which it has tried to exercise control in recent years -- but the requirement doesn't go far enough. Instead of making proposed laws simpler and more easily understood, it could end up adding a new layer of legalese that will provide much fodder for debate. But it will not solve one of the most intractable problems of modern legislation: Too many laws enacted now are simply incomprehensible.

Perhaps the most important lesson legislators could learn from reading the Constitution is the clarity and brevity of its language. The Founders weren't writing a document to be understood only by those with advanced degrees, but by ordinary citizens. In seven relatively short articles, the Founders managed to establish a democratic structure that has lasted more than 200 years; and we've only deemed it necessary to amend it a mere 27 times, including the Bill of Rights adopted by the first Congress. The proposed reading of the Constitution on the floor of the House will take only an estimated half-hour.

Contrast the language of the Constitution with the convoluted and arcane measures that have been enacted in the last several years. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is only the most recent and egregious bill passed by members of Congress who hadn't had time to read, much less fully understand what they were proposing. At more than 2,400 pages, the act is a monument to confusion, which will only be made worse as the agencies write the regulations that will actually govern how the law operates.

If the new Congress really wanted to do something radical -- and necessary -- it would be to enact limits on the length of proposed bills and require that they be written in plain English. Ironically, government dictates to others that they must provide guidance in understandable language. The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, requires that companies disclose information to the public written in short sentences, using no jargon and employing active voice. If legislators can't explain what they want to do in 100 pages or less, they probably shouldn't be doing it. Again, the health care act tells us much about what is wrong with the process. The drafters of the legislation sought to micromanage an entire industry, with rules affecting every aspect of health care spelled out in excruciating detail.

The most important laws on our books provide simple guidance, not play-by-play scenarios of what is or is not permitted. We abolished slavery and granted former slaves the right to vote in 100 words. We guaranteed equal protection of the laws and recognized the citizenship of all persons born or naturalized in the United States in barely 80. We guaranteed women the right to vote in fewer than 40 words.

By all means, the 112th Congress should act only when the Constitution grants it the powers to do so. But let's hope that even when it has the power to act, it will do so clearly and succinctly. If we want our laws to be observed, let's make sure we can understand them first.

The Wilson You Never Knew

The Wilson You Never Knew
By Paul Kengor

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in USA Today.

On the heels of a recent Sunday magazine profile of Glenn Beck, The New York Times published a roundtable discussion among six scholars on the issue of President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson has become a popular Beck target, and has suddenly emerged as a hot topic in our current politics.

"I hate Woodrow Wilson!" shouted Beck at February's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

For the record, I was at that gathering, and I'm a conservative, I like Beck, and I don't hate Wilson. My take on Wilson, however, is very different from what I'm hearing from Beck or from scholars on the left or right, whether pro-Wilson or anti-Wilson. It relates to a crucial aspect of Wilson that needs to be better known and which, dare I say, might even prompt Beck to amend his view—slightly perhaps.

First, let me say that I agree with several important criticisms of Wilson. His views on race and segregation were deeply offensive. His wielding of state power was often repressive, even abusive, particularly during wartime. And the long progression of a seemingly non-stop, ever-increasing centralization of policy and programs in Washington arguably began under Wilson.

Yet, one critical component of Wilson is missed by both sides, which conservatives should like and liberals might not: Wilson was stridently, vocally anti-communist. He staunchly opposed Bolshevism in particular.

My personal experience with this is instructive. I develop this point on Wilson in my latest book, where I throw conservatives a curveball with a kickoff chapter titled, "Woodrow Wilson: 'Utter Simpleton.'" Given that my book is about how communists deliberately and cynically duped liberals/progressives, conservatives initially expect Wilson will be my first dupe.

To the contrary, Wilson was called an "utter simpleton" by Vladimir Lenin, who, along with communists from Moscow to New York, demonized Wilson. They ridiculed his League of Nations, his ideas and his administration, openly calling for the "overthrow" of the U.S. government. It was for such reasons, not to mention an intense faith that saw communism as militantly atheistic, that Wilson vehemently opposed communism.

Wilson dubbed the Bolsheviks "barbarians," "terrorists," and "tyrants." He said they were engaged in a "brutal" campaign of "mass terrorism," of "blood and terror," of "indiscriminate slaughter" through "cunning" and "savage oppression." The "violent and tyrannical" Bolsheviks were "the most consummate sneaks in the world," and Bolshevism was an "ugly, poisonous thing." Wilson warned that the Bolsheviks were pushing an "expansionist" ideology that they wanted to export "throughout the world," including into the United States.

Most significant, Wilson and his State Department insisted that America should not have diplomatic relations or try to find common ground with the Bolsheviks. "In the view of this government," said Wilson's State Department in August 1920, "there cannot be any common ground upon which it can stand with a power whose conceptions of international relations are so entirely alien to its own, so utterly repugnant to its moral sense. ... We cannot recognize, hold official relations with, or give friendly reception to the agents of a government which is determined and bound to conspire against our institutions; whose diplomats will be the agitators of dangerous revolt; whose spokesmen say that they sign agreements with no intention of keeping them."

One of Wilson's more striking displays was a Sept. 6, 1919, speech in Kansas City, where the great liberal seemed to engage in what his liberal forebears would certainly consider Red-baiting.

Reiterating his "abhorrence" of Bolshevism, Wilson was stumping for the Versailles Treaty ending World War I, which was being opposed by isolationist Republicans. Here, Wilson compared that Republican opposition to the Bolshevik "spirit." He told his critics to "put up or shut up," and then asserted: "Opposition constructs nothing. Opposition is the specialty of those who are Bolshevistically inclined."

President Wilson was so concerned about international communism that he actually aided the forces fighting the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. He supported a naval blockade of a Red-controlled area inside the USSR, and even joined a multinational Western coalition in sending troops—a huge contingent of over 10,000 American boys—to battle the Bolsheviks.

Wilson's characterization of Bolshevism and the communist threat was hardly ill-informed. Highly educated, Wilson suffered no delusions about Marxism-Leninism, and knew that the American Communist Party was not simply another political party. He was a man of the progressive left who understood the destructiveness of the communist left. He observed how communists lied to and sought to manipulate his fellow progressives.

That is why communists, from Moscow to New York to Chicago, despised Wilson. It's a side of the renowned progressive that few, on the left or right, seem to remember or acknowledge. It's also a key reason why conservatives—Beck included—who, if nothing else, are vociferously anti-communist, might reconsider Wilson, at least somewhat.

To read another article by Paul Kengor, click here.

The Key New Year's Resolution: Stop the EPA

The Key New Year's Resolution: Stop the EPA
By Hugh Hewitt

Rolling back Obamacare will be at the top of many to-do lists for 2011, but a far more significant power grab is underway at the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and blocking it should be the first priority of incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Fred Upton.

The good news is that Upton agrees and has already begun planning to stop the EPA before it can begin the process of asserting effective control over every business and many millions of households in the United States.

In an op-ed Upton co-authored with Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, in Monday's Wall Street Journal and again on my radio show yesterday, Upton promised vigorous action by his committee to halt the EPA's attempt to accomplish via backdoor regulation what the Congress could not pass in 2009 or 2010 --a global warming-inspired, job-killing array of federal rules and commands on any operation or system that emits carbon dioxide.

This is cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax by another name and via an extraordinary power grab sanctioned by President Obama and his environmental "csar" Carol Browner and being executed by one of the most determined of all of Team Obama's big government disciplines, Lisa Jackson, administrator of EPA. The Obama-Browner-Jackson plan is to talk moderately and act radically using the thinnest of legal rationales --a 5-4 2007 Supreme Court decision that did not even present the question of whether EPA had authority to regulate the carbon dioxide emissions of refineries and power plants, which is phase one of the EPA's enormous regulatory plan.

EPA has declared that carbon dioxide endangers the health of Americans, and the agency is using this "finding" to justify regulating anything that emits carbon dioxide. As Upton and Phillips note in their piece, many businesses have recovered from their shock at such a naked grab for power and are fighting back in the courts, but EPA is rushing forward with regulations to try and put its radical overlay on America's private sector before the courts can even respond to the claims. President Obama gets no questions on this somewhat complicated subject from his cheerleaders in the White Hous e press corps and so the largest grab for regulatory control unsupported by explicit legislation in our nation's history moves forward.

Obamacare is a malignancy, yes, and it was a jam down done in defiance of easily recognized voter opinion.

But at least it did pass both houses of Congress and was signed by the president. It was a rotten exercise in constitutional government, but it was the way the laws are supposed to be passed.

This is not the case with the carbon dioxide regulations which claim the Clean Air Act as their legislative authority though the ideas of global warming as a threat and the regulation of carbon dioxide as a solution did not exist in the public consciousness much less on the floor of Congress when the Clean Air Act was first passed or later amended.

The carbon dioxide rules are thus a threat not just to the economy but also to the whole notion of self-government, and are the prime example of where bureaucratized administrative states move when allowed to assert authority unchecked by popularly-elected representatives.

This is where Chairman Upton comes in, and his committee will almost certainly pass blocking legislation and hopefully the Appropriations Committee will defund the EPA's efforts here and in other areas of the agency's operations as well as punishment for such blatant disregard of the people's representatives. A Senate dominated by two dozen endangered Democratic incumbents should help bring the out-of-control EPA to heel. An agency this radical needs gutting and overhaul, not tweaking, and Administrator Jackson needs to be in front of House committees for days on end, under oath and answering the toughest questions about her views on the agency's plans and legal authorities. Ms. Browner needs a subpoena as well backed up by legal action to compel testimony if she asserts executive privilege as President Obama has radically expanded the Office of the Presidency in an attempt to avoid the sort of balance and oversight on which separation-of-powers was premised.

If the EPA is not tamed in 2011, its regulatory reach will grow and grow. The agency has shrewdly begun its government-by-decree via diktats issued to power plants and refineries, obviously hoping that most Americans won't recognize that the precedent being set by these rules will apply to every business or operation in the U.S. that emits carbon dioxide. The fight to stop the EPA from crippling the power grid has immediate consequences to consumers but even greater consequences down the road for every citizen.

The president's willingness to indulge and indeed encourage such radical behavior should be a huge issue in the 2012 presidential campaign. President Obama closed out his disastrous 2010 by talking a moderate game, but the leadership of the GOP Congress should act to focus and keep the spotlight on this expression of the president's deepest instincts about centralized and powerful government rule over the lives of its citizens, whether or not the legislature has approved of the moves.

The GOP presidential candidates who help stop the EPA will also greatly improve their standing across the political spectrum, including among the millions of blue collar Democrats who see in the rise of radicals like Jackson the repudiation of the old New Deal agenda of jobs and economic growth in favor of the rule of technocrats behind desks, writing rules and issuing commands through an army of civil servants.

To read another article by Hugh Hewitt, click here.

The Valley That Jobs Forgot

The Valley That Jobs Forgot
posted at 11:35 am on December 31, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

If one had to guess where unemployment is highest in the US, most would probably suggest Detroit or Michigan as a whole. Others who paid attention to the midterm elections would know that Nevada surpassed Michigan as the state with the highest unemployment rate about mid-year. Others might guess Florida. However, in terms of metropolitan areas with the highest levels of joblessness, a new survey by the Birmingham Business Journal shows that California’s Central Valley is the epicenter for unemployment.

Verum Serum discovered this while analyzing the data and noting the incredible concentration of joblessness in the country:

The first thing that strikes me is how heavily concentrated the worst unemployment is. 22 of the 35 metro areas with the worst unemployment are either in California or Florida. Three of the remaining 13 are in Michigan.

But the concentration within the concentration clearly shows the Central Valley as the worst area for jobs. Nine of the top 10 metro jobless rates in the nation are California, and seven are in California’s Central Valley:

•El Centro, CA – 29.3% (east of San Diego near border with Mexico)
•Yuma, AZ – 26.7%
•Yuba City, CA – 17.8%
•Merced, CA – 16.3%
•Stockton, CA – 16.3%
•Modesto, CA – 16.2%
•Visalia-Porterville, CA – 15.9%
•Fresno, CA – 15.7%
•Palm Coast, FL – 15.5%
•Hanford – Corcoran, CA – 15.0%

Four of the next five after that are in central California as well, with #15 being the Riverside-San Bernardino area, not necessarily considered a Central Valley locale but also an area of significant agricultural production in normal times.

Why has California become the epicenter of unemployment? While Michigan and Florida have a mix of problems, including (in Michigan’s case) a history of bad management decisions on labor contracts, California’s Central Valley woes are entirely a government creation. As I wrote yesterday, the decision by a federal judge to cut off water supplies to an area that literally fed the world turned the Central Valley from an agricultural export powerhouse to a center of starvation within two years. Congress has refused to act to reverse this decision, and as a result, almost a quarter of the families in the area now need government assistance to feed themselves while living on some of the most productive land in the world.

John at VS concludes that the federal government can take just three actions to address these concentrations of chronic joblessness: “Control the border, turn on the water in the central valley, and prevent unions from negotiating any more devastating contracts like the ones that almost destroyed the nation’s auto industry.” Turning the water back on to the Central Valley is the easiest and quickest of the three, and unlike the labor-management relationship in (what used to be) a private industry, falls entirely within the purview of the federal government, thanks to the much-abused Endangered Species Act. Until Congress turns the water back on to this breadbasket to the nation, nothing they do on joblessness can be taken seriously.

Great Expectations

Great Expectations
By Oliver North

WASHINGTON -- "Happy new year," I said to the long-haul trucker as we arrived simultaneously at the door of a service station just off Interstate 70 near Frederick, Md. The temperature was in the teens; the wind was gusting at more than 30 miles per hour; and his 18-wheel rig was covered with residue of the blizzard he had driven through on his way west.

"What's to be happy about?" was his frosty response to my cheery salutation. He continued in a tone more frigid than the weather: "Have you seen the price of diesel fuel? It's going to cost you 50 bucks to fill up your SUV. It's going to run me almost a grand. I'm an independent trucker. My wife lost her job last year when the company where she worked for 15 years shut down. I'm hauling Chinese-made auto parts from Baltimore to Indianapolis and then a load of scrap steel to California for shipment to China. My wife and our three kids are counting on me. And the clowns in Washington are trying to put me out of business."

Through beads of condensation on the store's window, I could see his big Freightliner sleeper cab idling at the pump -- and a neon sign advertising diesel fuel at $3.26 a gallon. As we filled paper cups of coffee, I tried to cheer him up by suggesting that "things will get better after the new Congress is convened on Jan. 5."

The trucker shrugged and concluded our brief conversation with a stark warning: "They better, 'cause if they don't make things right, we've had it. Our oldest son is a Marine on his second tour in Afghanistan. He was going to stay in the Corps, but since this 'don't ask, don't tell' thing, his wife wants him to get out when he comes home. Our daughter is working her way through college but couldn't find a job last semester. My wife is now home-schooling our 12-year-old because half his sixth-grade public-school classmates can't speak English, and most of his classes had a Spanish-language 'translation teacher.' Anyone who thinks Congress can fix all this is naive. Happy new year to you and your family, Colonel."

Reflecting on this somber discussion, I think the 18-wheel nomad's dark prophecy may well be right. Our country does indeed face enormous challenges -- both domestic and foreign -- many of them exacerbated by what the Obama administration and the 111th Congress did and failed to do. The most visible indicators: glaring price displays above gas stations and the increasing number of foreclosure notices posted on homes and commercial real estate across America. There is an unfortunate correlation in these signs of the times.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the retail price for gasoline broke the $3-per-gallon barrier in July 2006 and again in November 2007. By June 2008, when it topped $4 per gallon, our nation's longest, deepest economic slide since the Great Depression was well under way, and the unemployment rate was accelerating toward its current high of 9.8 percent.

Thanks to a devalued U.S. dollar and the Obama administration's self-imposed ban on domestic petroleum exploitation, we're poised to exacerbate our problems. Reputable forecasters predict the price of motor fuel will be more than $4 again by midsummer. That, of course, will drive up the cost of everything we eat, use and do. It also will make it more expensive for those with jobs to get to work, pay for schooling, buy homes, meet mortgage payments or even rent an apartment.

New homes and commercial structures are among the few things that still carry a valid "Made in America" label. But selling an existing home is becoming increasingly problematic, and there is a paucity of startup businesses to fill vacant commercial property. The National Association of Realtors notes that nationwide, average home prices continue to drop by more than 1 percent per month. All this means fewer private-sector construction jobs in the year ahead.

Worse still, The Conference Board notes that despite a spike in retail sales in December, overall "consumer confidence" -- the key indicator for future economic growth -- remains near record lows. And now retail employers who hired temporary workers at Thanksgiving in preparation for the Christmas rush are laying them off again. Predictions of 11-13 percent unemployment by the end of 2011 no longer are deemed to be unreasonable.

Can the 112th Congress overcome the inane policies of its predecessors and the Obama administration to alter this gloomy outlook? My trucker-prophet on I-70 didn't think so. John Boehner, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, and his GOP majority believe they can. Their New Year's resolutions include promises to mend Washington's free-spending ways and rein in Obamacare. But there is much more that needs to be done. Urgent repairs for American energy policy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil would have a profound, positive impact on the U.S. economy.

Of course, all this needs to be done without promising more than they can deliver. In the year ahead, Boehner and his colleagues must avoid emulating the characters in Charles Dickens' 1861 novel, "Great Expectations." Even Pip came to understand that unfulfilled expectations are the greatest cause of anger on the planet. Happy new year, indeed.

To read another article by Oliver North, click here.

The Administration's Administrative Tyranny Marches On

The Administration's Administrative Tyranny Marches On
By David Limbaugh

This administration is abusive enough when it acts outside its constitutional authority, but it is even more tyrannical when it affirmatively thwarts the express will of the Congress on matters within the legislative domain.

When Congress denied Obama authority to transfer money to the International Monetary Fund, he did so anyway, issuing an executive order promising to give that body $140 billion for redistribution to Third World countries.

Now he's made another mockery of bipartisanship and the Constitution in making six recess appointments, including two people so objectionable that a near supermajority of Democratic senators wouldn't confirm them: James Cole as deputy attorney general, whose lax position in the war on terror is disturbing, and Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. as ambassador to Turkey.

Meanwhile, Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is gearing up to engage in a defiant end run around Congress by attempting to impose cap-and-trade-type regulations by administrative fiat after Obama's failed attempt to shove this nightmarish disaster through Congress.

It obviously doesn't matter to these zealots that an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress couldn't pass cap and trade or that the Clean Air Act gives them no authority to regulate so-called greenhouse gas emissions. It doesn't matter that their proposed regulatory blitzkrieg would further damage an already anemic and precarious economy.

What matters is that the earth goddess Gaia beckons, and she is not to be denied. Just as her global warming cultists view every environmental development and incident as confirmation of their cataclysmic myopia, including the ones that flatly contradict their theories, her disciples in government march to her orders, irrespective of the rule of law and silly capitalistic concerns.

Unlike those annoying evangelical Christians, who employ gentle persuasion techniques in their efforts to proselytize, Gaia's acolytes use the coercive power of government to bring us all into the fold. And all this time, libs have been telling us they abhor state-sponsored religion.

So on Jan. 2, new and modified industrial facilities, such as refineries and power plants, will be required to incorporate processes designed to curb their carbon dioxide emissions. Initially, the regulations will apply only to those concerns that already fall under the EPA's rules governing the emissions of other pollutants, such as soot and smog.

But in July, the scope of the regulations will expand to encompass large plants based solely on their greenhouse gas emissions. As deceitful, er, compassionate liberals, they're phasing in the pain to soften the blow (and the public's outrage) -- just as they did with the sundry gimmicks of Obamacare.

These developments also represent another phase of Obama's federal war against the states, which is currently raging in the Obamacare and Immigration Law theaters. That's because many states have conflicting or no administrative regulations in place to facilitate the implementation of the EPA's scheme.

Texas, for example, has adamantly refused to roll over for the administration's climate commands, so the EPA is preparing to subsume greenhouse gas permitting authority indefinitely in that little obstreperous state.

Even some Democrats and hardly conservative Republicans are objecting to this power grabbish assault on the economy. Sen. John Rockefeller warned of dire economic consequences and said, "We must call a timeout on these regulations." Sen. Lisa Murkowski said the EPA's new rules could lead to an "economic train wreck" and could cause businesses to close down, unemployment to rise and the costs of housing and consumer goods to increase.

And let's not forget gas prices. Remember when liberals used to oppose rising gas prices -- you know, under Bush, even when they were still less than $2 per gallon? According to Sen. Barbara Boxer, those astronomical prices were the result of George Bush and Dick Cheney's being "too cozy with the oil industry."

The Heritage Foundation notes that gas prices decreased 9 percent during Dubya's eight-year tenure, but they've been on a steady rise under Obama. The EPA emission rules will clearly make it more expensive to convert fossil fuels into energy, putting even more upward pressure on gas prices.

That's not all. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has decreed that the Bureau of Land Management will establish new rules to make it more difficult to develop natural resources on government-owned land, which will also drive up the cost of gas and electricity and increase our dependency on foreign energy sources. All these developments serve as a nice complement to Obama's seven-year ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. King Barack wasn't about to let the insubordinate courts have the last say in ruling that his earlier moratorium on deep- and shallow-water drilling was illegal.

In November, Obama's political theology took a shellacking at the polls, but he marches on, undeterred, in his quest to implement an agenda that is anathema to the great majority of Americans and devastating to our Constitution, our economic prosperity and our individual liberties.

To read another article by David Limbaugh, click here.

Big Labor's Snowmageddon Snit Fit

Big Labor's Snowmageddon Snit Fit
By Michelle Malkin

Diligent English farmers of old once shared a motto about the blessings of work: "Industry produces wealth, God speed the plow." Indolent New York City union officials who oversee snow removal apparently live by a different creed: Sloth enhances political power, Da Boss slow the plow.

Come rain or shine, wind, sleet or blizzard, Big Labor leaders always demonstrate perfect power-grabby timing when it comes to shafting taxpayers. Public-sector unions are all-weather vultures ready, willing and able to put special interest politics above the citizenry's health, wealth and safety. Confirming rumors that have fired up the frozen metropolis, the New York Post reported Thursday that government sanitation and transportation workers were ordered by union supervisors to oversee a deliberate slowdown of its cleanup program -- and to boost their overtime paychecks.

Why such vindictiveness? It's a cold-blooded temper tantrum against the city's long-overdue efforts to trim layers of union fat and move toward a more efficient, cost-effective privatized workforce.

Welcome to the Great Snowmageddon Snit Fit of 2010.

New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Queens, told the Post that several brave whistleblowers confessed to him that they "were told (by supervisors) to take off routes (and) not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file."

Denials and recriminations are flying like snowballs. But even as they scoff at reports of this outrageous organized job action, the city sanitation managers' unions openly acknowledge their grievances and "resentment" over job cuts. Stunningly, sanitation workers spilled the beans on how city plowers raised blades "unusually high" (which requires extra passes to get their work done) and refused to plow anything other than assigned streets (even if it meant leaving behind clogged routes to get to their blocks).

When they weren't sitting on their backsides, city plowers were caught on videotape maniacally destroying parked vehicles in a futile display of Kabuki Emergency Theater. It would be laugh-out-loud comedy if not for the death of at least one newborn whose parents waited for an ambulance that never came because of snowed-in streets.

This isn't a triumphant victory for social justice and workers' dignity. This is terrifying criminal negligence.

And it isn't the first time New York City sanitation workers have endangered residents' well-being. In the 1960s, a Teamsters-affiliated sanitation workers' strike led to trash fires, typhoid warnings and rat infestations, as 100,000 tons of rotting garbage piled up. Three decades later, a coordinated job action by city building-service workers and sanitation workers caused another public trash nuisance declared "dangerous to life and health" in the Big Apple.

New Yorkers could learn a thing or two from those of us who call Colorado Springs, Colo., home. We have no fear of being held hostage to a politically driven sanitation department -- because we have no sanitation department. We have no sanitation department because enlightened advocates of limited government in our town realized that competitive bidders in the private sector could provide better service at lower cost.

And we're not alone. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Michigan reported: "The largest study ever conducted on outsourced garbage collection, conducted by the federal government in the 1970s, reported 29 to 37 percent savings in cities with populations over 50,000. A 1994 study by the Reason Foundation discovered that the city of Los Angeles was paying about 30 percent more for garbage collection than its surrounding suburbs, in which private waste haulers were employed. A 1982 study of city garbage collection in Canada discovered an astonishing 50 percent average savings as a result of privatization."

Completely privatized trash collection means city residents don't get socked with the bill for fraudulently engineered overtime pay, inflated pensions and gold-plated health benefits in perpetuity -- not to mention the capital and operating costs of vehicles and equipment. The Colorado Springs model, as city councilman Sean Paige calls it, is a blueprint for how every city can cope with budget adversity while freeing itself from thuggish union threats when contracts expire or cuts are made. Those who dawdled on privatization efforts in better times are suffering dire, deadly consequences now.

Let the snow-choked streets of New York be a lesson for the rest of the nation: It's time to put the Big Chill on Big Labor-run municipal services.

To read another article by Michelle Malkin, click here.

Oh, Thank Heaven It's 2011

Oh, Thank Heaven It's 2011
By Jed Babbin on 12.30.10 @ 6:09AM

2010 is finally over and it's high bloody time.

The second year of the Obama plague began with Obama signing the healthcare "reform" measure, which Joe Biden pronounced was a big effing deal. Heaven's sense of humor was demonstrated by the visitation on Washington of a second plague, not easily distinguished from the first. Halyomorpha halys, the brown stink bug, infested the area in biblical proportions.

The Wikis leaked all over us but President Obama told us it was rain falling on our heads. Barry says we're on the right track in Afghanistan but, as Jimmy McMillen told us, the rent is too damned high. Hamid Karzai just wants us to pay it in perpetuity, which appears to be the time in which the Iraqis will get their act together. Joe Biden had bad news for Karzai, though, saying we'll be out of there in 2014 come hell or high water. Which must be Joe's long-range forecast for the 2012 election.

The Rump Congress finally went home after slinging its last insults at our economy and our culture. And according to Gallup, 13 percent of Americans still think Congress is doing a very good job. Who are these people? They must be the ones the UN thought of when it proposed to appoint its first official ambassador to extraterrestrial beings. (If the House Repubs want to cut something out of the budget next year, how about starting with the $6 billion or so we pay the Turtle Bay crime family every year?)

It's not just that Barry, Nancy and Harry managed to stampede more nation-mangling legislation into law. It's not just that our national debt is such a large number -- $13,868,461,000,000 -- that it defies imagination and repayment.

It's the fact that for all the great work of the Tea Partyers, for all the votes cast and promises made, there's a lingering sense of dread.

Barry got shellacked in November, but before the varnish could dry the Senate RINOs handed Presidude Obama almost everything he wanted, including a tax deal that had so many liberal toys attached, you'd need a new car to pull it. One more powerful than the Chevy Volt, which gets at least 40 miles per billion dollars of taxpayer-funded subsidies.

The Chinese, helping us draw the economic noose ever more tightly around our necks, are also trying to stir-fry some of their neighbors into satellite states. China's military buildup now includes plans for an aircraft carrier or two. In that regard they match the Brits whose long-deck carriers may someday set sail. But the penurious Brits (rendered so by years of liberal government) can't afford to build planes to operate from their carriers. So they're thinking about a partnership with the French to take turns sailing and paying for carrier ops.

The ship will have to be christened HMS Fromage, and the alternating crews will choose between stilton and camembert. The Fromage had better have a reinforced bow because mother earth is cooling so quickly, we appear to be entering a new Ice Age.

2011 will not only be colder, but darker: the last U.S. factory making incandescent light bulbs closed in 2010. From now on, in between the moment you throw the switch and when the stupid spiral actually emits its dull light take time to thank a liberal. (When a bulb breaks, call the hazmat squad: the spirals contain mercury, which is nearly as hazardous to your health as Obamacare.)

Frozen Britain reported that the first week in December 2010 wasn't the coldest ever opening week of that month. That occurred in 1639 when the British East India Company was founding the city of Madras (thereby establishing a reliable supply of tasteful plaid shirts) and the birth of Sir Isaac Newton was three years off. It's a pity that Sir Isaac isn't around to dissect mathematically California's latest act of economic suicide.

Economic terminator Schwarzenegger hailed the enactment of California's version of the failed European cap-and-trade scam just in time for Governor Medfly's re-inauguration next month. Jerry Brown's new turn in Sacramento will be historic: he will be the first governor to oversee the outright bankruptcy of a U.S. state. A more fitting idea would be for California to join the economic leper colony called the "euro zone."

An unconfirmed report says that the reappearance of the cartoon character "Speedy Alka-Seltzer" that cheered the television ads of our youth was conceived in California solely for the relief of German PM Angela Merkel. Ms. Merkel will man up in 2011 to save the German economy, which will require busting up the euro zone. "Deutschmarks uber alles" does have a nice ring to it.

The comparisons between Barry and his international counterparts have been, well, unfortunate. Russian strongman Vlad Putin was filmed in an ultimate act of political incorrectness: shooting whales with a crossbow. Barry was dancing the Indian version of disco. Vlad was practicing judo throws on big guys. Barry was dishing with the girls on "The View." When asked about antigovernment protesters denied permission to demonstrate, Vlad said "You will be beaten upside the head with a truncheon. And that's it." Faced with the toughest question the media posed to him this year, Barry told the Viewettes "I've got to admit that I don't know who Snooki is."

If you wonder how the START treaty got to be so bad for us and so good for Russia, please re-read the preceding paragraph. I'd suggest that Barry man up, but I'd have equal success aiming that remark at Barney Frank.

Marines don't need to be told to man up, because they perfected the concept in 1775. Two Marine Commandants -- Gen. Jim Conway and his successor Gen. James Amos -- both stood fast against the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law prohibiting homosexuals from serving openly in the military. But the hyperlibs and RINOs of Congress believed themselves better judges of the effect of DADT repeal.

The repeal may be a supersecret strategery to help win the Afghanistan war. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we know the sexual proclivities of many Pashtun men, who apparently embrace a liberal interpretation of Islam as well as each other.

Long will historians ponder why -- upon the repeal -- the first communication from the Senate Majority Leader was to a creature of unknown biology known as Lady Gaga. The only discernible connection is that Army Pfc. Bradley Manning -- accused of passing hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks -- reportedly copied them onto rewritable Lady Gaga music disks. Manning is enthusiastically gay, but we will refrain from speculation of any connection between or among him, Senator Reid and Lady Gaga.

The Kabuki troupe performing security theater at airports have yet to stop a would-be terrorist, but they have determined how Superman's x-ray vision benefits him when he isn't out fighting crime. Some of the TSA goons selected former "Baywatch" babe Donna D'Errico for personal naked x-ray screening and, according to the lady in question, she observed them chuckling furtively at what they saw.

I'm pretty sure that the TSA fondlers will not be able to touch a woman's padded bra and tell if it's padded with cotton or PETN, the explosive du jour among the bad guys. We have enough money to put TV's up in all the Wall Marts to show Big Sis warning us to say something if we see something, but not enough to train screeners to do it as the Israelis do. I'll say something: stop performing security rituals that don't make us safer, fire Janet Incompetano and train profiling screeners to keep the underwear bombers off my next flight.

Thanks to the greatness of the American people, voiced through the election by the Tea Party Movement, there is hope. As Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke of his Dem colleagues at the end of the 111th Congress, "If they think it's bad now, wait till next year."

Now that's a promise that must be kept. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jackpot: Huge natural gas reserves found off Israeli coast

Jackpot: Huge natural gas reserves found off Israeli coast
posted at 6:50 pm on December 30, 2010 by Allahpundit

Good news indeed, although I can’t shake the nagging feeling that tossing another huge energy find into the fray of Middle Eastern geopolitics might end up having unfortunate unintended consequences.

You know me. Always the pessimist!

On Wednesday, the frenzy got fresh fuel: Noble confirmed its earlier estimates that the field contains 16 trillion cubic feet of gas—making it the world’s biggest deepwater gas find in a decade, with enough reserves to supply Israel’s gas needs for 100 years.

It’s still early days, and getting all that gas out of the seabed may be more difficult than it seems today. But Noble and its partners think the field could hold enough gas to transform Israel, a country precariously dependent on others for energy, into a net-energy exporter.

Such a transformation could potentially alter the geopolitical balance of the Mideast, giving Israel a new economic advantage over its enemies…

Iran, Israel’s arch-nemesis and Hezbollah’s chief backer, has also weighed in. Tehran’s ambassador to Lebanon, Qazanfar Roknabadi, last month claimed that three-quarters of the Leviathan field actually belongs to Lebanon.

Mr. Landau, the Israeli infrastructure minister, denied the claim and warned Lebanon that Israel wouldn’t hesitate to use force to protect its mineral rights.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the entire zone may have reserves of 122 trillion cubic feet of gas, which is half the proven reserves of the entire United States. To entice you into reading the whole piece, there’s a fun subplot in there about Israel clamoring to retroactively raise its royalty rates on oil companies — which had traditionally been unusually low — in order to reap a windfall from the find, with the State Department (and Bill Clinton!) lobbying hard against it on behalf of the local American energy company. Believe it, my friends: Prominent Democrats, including the diplomatic arm of the Obama administration, coming out hard against … energy taxes.

Exit question: What will Israel get in return when it inevitably gives up its hugely lucrative claim to the gas field as part of some tenuous peace deal? A promise from Hezbollah not to kill every last Jew in the Holy Land?

There Is Always Fidel

There Is Always Fidel
By Emmett Tyrrell

WASHINGTON -- Next week marks the 52nd anniversary of Fidel Castro's arrival to his Cuban throne. I cannot wait to see how it will be solemnized. Will little children appear before Fidel throwing flowers? They'd better not throw them too hard. He is pretty frail. Will there be a military parade? If there is, where will they come up with the gasoline? There is hardly enough in the country for the Communist Party's leaders' limousines. What will they be celebrating? By now, everyone knows that the revolution was a stupendous bust starting about 51 years ago.

Perhaps Steven Spielberg will be there. He dined with Fidel back in 2002. Upon leaving Fidel's presence, Spielberg enthused that he had just spent "the eight most important hours" of his life. Fidel is no fast-food enthusiast. He has long repasts and two, possibly three, desserts. He also has long and luxurious confabs. After a three-hour visit with Fidel in 1998, Jack Nicholson called him a "genius." He added, "We spoke about everything" -- which probably makes Nicholson a genius, too. I wonder whether they talked about the plight of political prisoners in Fidel's jails. Actually, I wonder whether they talked about how Fidel was presiding over one of the last communist dictatorships left on earth -- and, naturally enough, an impoverished one.

Something there is about a communist dictator that brings out the stunning vacuity of idiots like Spielberg and Nicholson and all the rest of the Hollywoodians. Remember when filmmaker Saul Landau complimented Fidel for having "brought a greater equality in terms of wealth distribution (to Cuba) than ... any country in the world today"? Fidel accomplished this feat by simply stealing all of Cuba's wealth and leaving everyone poor except him and his cronies. Would Landau and his fellows admire such confiscations if practiced here in America? Who would have enough money to go to the movies?

One of Fidel's most fabulous claims has to do with the health care system he has imposed on his people. No one there suffers Michelle Obama's dread obesity, except for the occasional Communist Party functionary. In fact, everyone is in the pink. I recently heard of the marvels of the communist system, and I did not even have to turn to Fidel's state-owned radio to hear it. It was broadcast on our own state-owned broadcast system, on PBS' "NewsHour." There, in a three-part series, one Ray Suarez sang of Cuba's accomplishments. There was not a word about how he was covering health care in a police state, just chatter about a country where doctors abound and everyone is checked regularly for the good of public health. According to Suarez, the key to the Cuban people's rubicund good health is "aggressive preventive medicine." He went on, "Homes are investigated, water quality checked, electrical plugs checked."

Frankly, I was a little surprised by all Suarez's guff. The generals of Myanmar would not get off so easily. Gratefully, the vigilant Mary Anastasia O'Grady of The Wall Street Journal, who specializes in Latin America, also was in Suarez's audience. She points out that "the series was taped in Cuba with government 'cooperation' so there is no surprise that it went heavy on the party line." You can say that again. And O'Grady refutes Suarez with a memoir from Vicente Botin, a Spanish Television correspondent who spent four years in the Cuban hellhole.

Among other points he makes, Botin claims that Cuban homes have no regular running water or steady electricity, even in the capital. Botin says that in Havana, 75.5 percent of the water pipes are "unusable" and that the government "recognized that 60 percent of pumped water was lost before it made it to consumers." To alleviate the problem, O'Grady writes, "the city began providing water in each neighborhood only on certain days. Havana water is also notoriously contaminated. Foreigners drink only the bottled stuff, which Cubans can't afford." It is curious that a country that cannot even provide water to its people can boast of a superb health system.

Yet we now have it from PBS' Suarez that the public health care system provided by Fidel is superb. Cuba -- a country that cannot provide clean water to its citizenry, to say nothing of electricity -- is a land of vigorous good health. Homes are investigated, Suarez says, and "electrical plugs checked." Possibly that is because in Cuba, doctors double as secret police, or is it the other way round? At any rate, it is reassuring to know that in Cuba, house calls are made.

A Smatter of Opinion

A Smatter of Opinion
By Jay D. Homnick on 12.30.10 @ 6:07AM

Some time ago, I don't remember just when, I was somewhere, I don't recall just where, and I was asked by someone, I don't recollect just who, for my opinion on something, I don't retain just what, and I said I had none. The dismay which met my response was intense.

"No opinion?!" the fellow exclaimed, gasped, griped, snapped, spat. "But you're an American?! You are entitled to an opinion!"

Before this encounter, I had imagined this entitlement could be forgiven, a bequest from the national patrimony, but I found that was unforgiveable. I had thought I could look at a subject from various angles, shake well before using, and if an opinion did not fall out I could move on, so long as my shrug was not too French. If there's no gold in the mine, move on to a more maternal lode. Or stay right in my seat and cede my right to take a stand. If I can't quantify it, I can leave it to the qualified.

No more. I learned that with the right to an opinion comes an expectation. A true American must opine for the flag. I live, therefore I choose; being pro-life, I must be pro-choice. Add to that my childhood fascination with columnists – Alsop, Buchwald, Buckley, McGrory and Alsop – and it is no surprise to find me hawking opinions for a liveliness, if not quite a livelihood.

As 2010 closes to a draw, I thank God (and The American Spectator) for giving me the opportunity to make my voice heard. In that light, a few reflections on the year passed.


The year began with the passing of the health care bill, the mandate or tax or benefit or entitlement or whatever it claims to be. It was not developed by anyone or any group we could identify. It did not have extensive research or studies in support. It made no tests, conducted no experiments, took no measured steps in development. It appeared fully born like Adam and was left on our stoop like an unwanted changeling.

The only thing I can say for sure about this Cyclops -- and I know this experientially, not empirically -- is that absolutely no one will benefit from this in any way and that none of the predicted improvements will materialize. It is not in the nature of things for sloppy people to do sloppy work and create a sloppy product which then produces fabulous results.


The feel-good story of the year featured a group of over thirty miners in Chile trapped underground for weeks. Through a miracle of international cooperation, the right people and the right machines were brought to bear on the problem, with happy result. This was what a world of individual initiative looks like.


Unfortunately, it probably comes too late to convince the Western world that salvation is the end result of freedom. Too many years of propaganda have convinced them that free rein brings the fall, and that Heaven is on the side of the Engels.


The daughter of the Clintons married a Jew in a multi-denominational service that denominated nobody and served nobody. It provided a model for religion as the collected vague thoughts of superficial people trying to ponder matters of the spirit without heavy lifting. The notion that there is no one below government who knows what he is doing thus becomes wedded to the notion that there is no One above government who knows what He is doing.


Harry Reid won an election in the state of Nevada despite presiding over the squandering of trillions of dollars, thousands of thousands of millions, on his personal hunches without solid evidence.

Bernard Madoff went to jail for taking a few billion dollars from people for safekeeping and squandering it on his personal hunches without solid evidence.


The Yankees were eliminated in the playoffs and George Steinbrenner went to Heaven anyway. Michael Vick's career, once gone to the dogs, began to soar on the wings of Eagles. LeBron James forsook the city of Cleveland, prompting its citizens to compare him to his late brother Jesse.


The Republicans won the House and blocked the Democrats in the Senate for cloture but many Americans lost their houses to foreclosure. America came to its census and moved away from New York to Florida. And don't look now, but Jerry Brown has been reelected Governor of California.


Iran caught a virus and Greece is a riot. Argentina lost its shadow President and Venezuela lost its shadow citizenry. Afghanistan can't control its surges while Pakistan can't control its boarders. Israel froze its freeze and North Korea was contemplating a Korea change.


The world is still a dangerous place which resists the blandishments of men for melioration. As far as I am concerned, this would be a good moment for the Messiah to enter… even stage left, if that's what it takes. Farewell to 2010, a mixed bag indeed.

Happy New Year 2011!

Getting Below the Surface

Getting Below the Surface
By Ned Ryun from the December 2010 - January 2011 issue

We of course know that the November 2, 2010, elections were historical on many different levels. The Republican gains of 63 seats in the House and 6 in the Senate dwarf the Republican Revolution of 1994 and double the historical average gains in the Senate for a party out of power. These gains were made despite a cash-strapped Republican National Committee (RNC), strategic decisions by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) to spend $8 million in the long-shot California Senate race instead of Washington and Colorado, and the fact that the RNC, NRSC, and National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) had a zero ground game.

But what the November midterm elections did do was confirm and destroy some of the most talked-about conventional wisdom about the so-called Tea Party movement, as well as raise some warning flags for Republicans moving into the 2012 election cycle.

Tea Party activists revealed themselves to be, if not completely organized, at the very least politically pragmatic, engaged, and ready to press their agenda on the local, state, and federal level well after Election Day. How the relationship between the Tea Party movement and establishment Republicans will develop is going to be one of the most closely watched storylines of the next year. But if you dig deeper into what took place on Election Day, you notice some incredible missed opportunities for the Tea Party and Republicans to build on. And if Republicans expect to make a greater impact in 2012, those missed opportunities will have to be addressed.

The gains of November extend beyond the achievements at the federal level and are staggering in their implications. Consider for a moment the gubernatorial races in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida -- all won by Republican governors in a redistricting year leading up to the 2012 presidential elections. But go past the gubernatorial races: in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republicans won the secretary of state races, despite George Soros's S.O.S. project, and in Florida, Republicans retained that position. Again, having Republican secretaries of states in charge of the elections in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will have considerable implications for 2012. With the governorships, secretaries of state, and state legislatures firmly in Republican hands in the three most important battleground states, Obama's path back to the White House in 2012 did not get any easier.

If you go deeper into the state-level elections, you see Republicans ran roughshod over the Democrats. On November 1, according to, Democrats had a 783-member advantage over Republicans. On November 3, Republicans held a 523-member advantage, a swing of more than 1,300 seats. Across the country, conservatives and Republicans saw historic results: Republicans will hold the Minnesota state for the first time in history, the Alabama legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, and the North Carolina legislature for the first time since 1870. In Maine, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin, states that Obama won definitively in 2008, Republicans won control of both the state senate and house chambers. And those changes were not by one or two seats: in the Wisconsin state assembly, Democrats had a 52-46 advantage before Election Night. After the dust settled, Republicans now hold a 60-38 advantage. Even in states where Republicans did not gain the majority, they made significant gains: before the elections, Republicans in the Arkansas state house held only 25 seats of 100. Now they hold 45, with serious talk of some Democrats switching parties.

With 11 congressional districts to be reapportioned before 2012, the state legislative races will impact the federal level. Consider Texas, which stands to gain four congressional seats in 2012. Before Election Night, Republicans held a slim two-seat advantage in the Texas house. Now Republicans have a 99-51 advantage in the house, 19-12 in the senate, and hold the governor's mansion, enough of a margin to ensure reapportionment in favor of a Republicans should go more smoothly than in previous attempts.

These election results will have a long-term impact beyond redistricting and presidential races. Consider that roughly 70 percent of the 111th Congress began their careers at the state and local level. Some of our future congressional leaders will come from the state legislative victories of November 2.

THERE WERE MISSED opportunities. The easy ones to highlight are the U.S. Senate races in Colorado and Nevada and even Washington. (I'm sorry, Delaware was not a lost opportunity; Christine O'Donnell was a deeply flawed candidate, but Mike Castle would have lost the race as well.) Poorly run campaigns (Nevada), combined with mismanaged funds (NRSC) and a nonexistent ground game, caused many of the GOP Senate candidates to underperform by two to four points from their last pre-election poll numbers and final results.

What was also missed amid the euphoria and the staggering state-level gains is that more than 26 percent of incumbent state legislators, or nearly 1,300, were not challenged in the general election. In what was generally viewed as a wave election, it makes one wonder what could have happened had more state legislative candidates been groomed to run.

Much of the blame for a lack of contested races on the state level lies with Republican state parties. But this is where a happy by-product of the so-called "Tea Party" movement comes in: a growing network of grassroots conservative organizations not aligned with the Republican Party that are recruiting, training, and running candidates on the local and state levels, and preparing for the 2012 election cycle. These organizations are spreading the word about what is increasingly being called "constitutional conservatism," and news of what these organizations are undertaking and how they undertake their activities is what this column will be about moving forward. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

$5 Gas Predicted Under Obama -- What, No Pitchforks?

$5 Gas Predicted Under Obama -- What, No Pitchforks?
By Larry Elder

Five dollars per gallon of gas by 2012! A former president of Shell Oil considers this likely. The average price on Christmas Day for a gallon of regular gas reached $3.28 in Los Angeles County, the highest price since October 2008. In one month, the price rose 13 cents, up 35 cents year to year.

Where are the calls to sic Obama's Justice Department on Big Oil to hold the oil companies accountable for "market manipulation"? Why aren't we hunting down the amoral "oil speculators" responsible for repealing the law of supply-and-demand in order to line their pockets?

During President George W. Bush's administration, we constantly heard demands to hold the President accountable for "Big Oil's price gouging." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., just two years ago, knew exactly whom to blame for "skyrocketing" oil prices: "The price of oil is at the doorstep; $4-plus per gallon for oil is attributed to two oilmen in the White House and their protectors in the United States Senate."

In 2007, when the average national price ranged from $2.17 to $3.22, then-Sen. Barack Obama demanded that the Federal Trade Commission investigate Big Oil for "price manipulation." In 2008, presidential candidate Obama urged the Justice Department "to open an investigation into whether energy traders have been engaged in illegal activities that have helped drive up the price of oil and food."

Obama also called for "a windfall profits penalty on oil selling at or over $80 per barrel." As of Christmas 2010, a barrel of oil sold at slightly above $90. What happened to the windfall profits tax?

Yes, back then the average price per gallon was four bucks. But blaming "oilman" Bush for high prices began when the average price was well below today's $3.05 national average.

The average price was $1.72 on March 5, 2003, when CBS News posted a story online with this headline: "Dems Blame Bush For High Oil Prices." It referred to an investigative report by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. Levin blamed Bush's post-9/11 decision to increase the amount of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve by 40 million barrels in 2002 -- bringing the total to 600 million. Levin said, "We're confident this had a significant impact on the price of oil in 2002." Never mind that the Bush administration called the amount of oil diverted too small to matter.

The average price was $2.80 on April 22, 2006, when posted an article with the headline "Democrats blame Bush for high gas prices": "Consumer gasoline prices continue to soar as the Bush administration places too much emphasis on drilling reserves and not enough on alternative fuels, Democrats said." The article quoted Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who praised Brazil's "energy independence." "In Brazil," Nelson said, "drivers are filling up their cars with ethanol instead of gasoline."

Not exactly, Sen. Nelson.

Brazil may be "energy independent" in that it imports only a small percentage -- 649,000 barrels per day in 2009 -- of the oil it consumes. But that makes Brazil the 19th-highest oil-importing country in the world. Its economy relies heavily on oil that is domestically produced and consumed. Brazil is the seventh-largest consumer of oil in the world and the ninth-largest producer. Its famous -- and heavily government-subsidized -- sugar cane-based ethanol fuel is actually a blend that uses approximately 75 percent gasoline.

As for U.S. ethanol, which is made from corn, Nobel laureate environmentalist Al Gore recently called it a bad deal: "It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol. First-generation ethanol, I think, was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small. ... The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first-generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices. The competition with food prices is real." Why did he once support ethanol? He admitted that he'd wanted to help farmers in Iowa, site of the nation's first caucus, since he "was about to run for president."

The silence over the recent price run-up is yet the latest example of left-wing hypocrisy. It was always about bludgeoning Bush rather than a sincere conviction that Big Oil was cheating. How else to explain the absence of demands for investigations?

America could achieve "energy independence" if producers were allowed to drill in Alaska, the lower 48 and offshore, where substantial amounts of untapped oil remain off-limits. Obama, who currently squanders hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars by "investing" in alternative energy, possesses no more control over the law of supply-and-demand than did "evil" Oilman Bush.

To read another article by Larry Elder, click here.

She Told Us So

She Told Us So
By Cal Thomas

Sarah Palin deserves an apology. When she said that the new health-care law would lead to "death panels" deciding who gets life-saving treatment and who does not, she was roundly denounced and ridiculed.

Now we learn, courtesy of one of the ridiculers -- The New York Times -- that she was right. Under a new policy not included in the law for fear the administration's real end-of-life game would be exposed, a rule issued by the recess-appointed Dr. Donald M. Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, calls for the government to pay doctors to advise patients on options for ending their lives. These could include directives to forgo aggressive treatment that could extend their lives.

This rule will inevitably lead to bureaucrats deciding who is "fit" to live and who is not. The effect this might have on public opinion, which by a solid majority opposes Obamacare, is clear from an e-mail obtained by the Times. It is from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who sent it to people working with him on the issue. Oregon and Washington are the only states with assisted-suicide laws, a preview of what is to come at the federal level if this new regulation is allowed to stand. Blumenauer wrote in his November e-mail: "While we are very happy with the result, we won't be shouting it from the rooftops because we aren't out of the woods yet. This regulation could be modified or reversed, especially if Republican leaders try to use this small provision to perpetuate the 'death panel' myth."

Ah, but it's not a myth, and that's where Palin nailed it. All inhumanities begin with small steps; otherwise the public might rebel against a policy that went straight to the "final solution." All human life was once regarded as having value, because even government saw it as "endowed by our Creator." This doctrine separates us from plants, microorganisms and animals.

Doctors once swore an oath, which reads in part: "I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion." Did Dr. Berwick, a fan of rationed care and the British National Health Service, ever take that oath? If he did, it appears he no longer believes it.

Do you see where this leads? First the prohibition against abortion is removed and "doctors" now perform them. Then the assault on the infirm and elderly begins. Once the definition of human life changes, all human lives become potentially expendable if they don't measure up to constantly "evolving" government standards.

It will all be dressed up with the best possible motives behind it and sold to the public as the ultimate benefit. The killings, uh, terminations, will take place out of sight so as not to disturb the masses who might have a few embers of a past morality still burning in their souls. People will sign documents testifying to their desire to die, and the government will see it as a means of "reducing the surplus population," to quote Charles Dickens.

When life is seen as having ultimate value, individuals and their doctors can make decisions about treatment that are in the best interests of patients. But when government is looking to cut costs as the highest good and offers to pay doctors to tell patients during their annual visits that they can choose to end their lives rather than continue treatment, that is more than the proverbial camel's nose under the tent. That is the next step on the way to physician-assisted suicide and, if not stopped, government-mandated euthanasia.

It can't happen here? Based on what standard? Yes it can happen in America, and it will if the new Republican class in Congress doesn't stop it.

The American 21st Century

The American 21st Century
By Victor Davis Hanson

The current debt, recession, wars and political infighting have depressed Americans into thinking they soon will be supplanted by more vigorous rivals abroad. Yet this is an American fear as old as it is improbable.

In the 1930s, the Great Depression supposedly marked the end of freewheeling American capitalism. The 1950s were caricatured as a period of mindless American conformity, McCarthyism and obsequious company men.

By the late 1960s, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., along with the Vietnam War, had prompted a hippie counterculture that purportedly was going to replace a toxic American establishment. Oil shocks, gas lines, Watergate and new rust belts were said to be symptomatic of a post-industrial, has-been America of the 1970s.

At the same time, other nations, we were typically told, were doing far better.

In the late 1940s, with the rise of a postwar Soviet Union that had crushed Hitler's Wehrmacht on the eastern front during World War II, communism promised a New Man as it swept through Eastern Europe.

Mao Zedong took power in China and inspired communist revolutions from North Korea to Cuba. Statist central planning was going to replace the unfairness and inefficiency of Western-style capitalism. Yet just a half-century later, communism had either imploded or had been superseded in most of the world.

By the early 1980s, Japan's state capitalism and emphasis on the group rather than the individual was being touted as the ideal balance between the public and private sectors. Japan Inc. continually outpaced the growth of the American economy. Then, in the 1990s, a real estate bubble and a lack of fiscal transparency led to a collapse of property prices and a general recession. A shrinking and aging Japanese population, led by a secretive government, has been struggling ever since to recover the old magic.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the European Union was hailed as the proper Western paradigm of the future. The euro soared over the dollar. Europe practiced a sophisticated "soft power," while American cowboyism was derided for getting us into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Civilized cradle-to-grave benefits were contrasted with the frontier, every-man-for-himself American system.

Now Europe limps from crisis to crisis. Its undemocratic union, when coupled with socialist entitlements, is proving unsustainable. Symptoms of the ossified European system appear in everything from a shrinking population and a growing atheism to an inability to integrate Muslim immigrants or field a credible military.

As we enter this new decade, we are currently being lectured that China is soon to be the global colossus. Its economy is now second only to America's, but with a far faster rate of growth and budget surpluses rather than debt. Few seem to mention that China's mounting social tensions, mercantilism, environmental degradation and state bosses belong more to a 19th than 21st century nation.

Two symptoms of all this doom and gloom are constant over the decades. First, America typically goes through periodic bouts of neurotic self-doubt, only to wake up and snap out of it. Indeed, indebted Americans are already bracing for fiscal restraint and parsimony as an antidote to past profligacy.

Second, decline is relative and does not occur in a vacuum. As Western economic and scientific values ripple out from Europe and the United States, it is understandable that developing countries like China, India or Brazil can catapult right into the 21st century. But that said, national strength is still found in the underlying hardiness of the patient -- its demography, culture and institutions -- rather than occasional symptoms of ill health.

In that regard, America integrates immigrants and assimilates races and ethnicities in a way Europe cannot. Russia, China and Japan are simply not culturally equipped to deal with millions who do not look Slavic, Chinese or Japanese. The Islamic world cannot ensure religious parity to Christians, Jews or Hindus -- or political equality to women.

The American Constitution has been tested over 223 years. In contrast, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia and South Korea do not have constitutional pedigrees of much more than 60 years. The last time Americans killed each other in large numbers was nearly a century and a half ago; most of our rivals have seen millions of their own destroyed in civil strife and internecine warring just this century.

In short, a nation's health is not gauged by bouts of recession and self-doubt, but by its time-honored political, economic, military and social foundations. A temporarily ill-seeming America is nevertheless still growing, stable, multiethnic, transparent, individualistic, self-critical and meritocratic; almost all of its apparently healthy rivals in fact are not.

To read another article by Victor Davis Hanson, click here.

Promises and Riots

Promises and Riots
By Thomas Sowell

Economists are the real "party of No." They keep saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch-- and politicians keep on getting elected by promising free lunches.

Such promises may seem to be kept, for a while. There are ways the government can juggle money around to make everything look OK, but it is only a matter of time before that money runs out and the ultimate reality hits, that there is no free lunch.

We are currently seeing what happens, in fierce riots raging in various countries in Europe, when the money runs out and the brutal truth is finally revealed, that there is no free lunch.

You cannot have generous welfare state laws that allow people to retire on government pensions while they are in their 50s, in an era when most people live decades longer.

In the United States, that kind of generosity exists mostly for members of state government employees' unions-- which is why some states are running out of money, and why the Obama administration is bailing them out, in the name of "stimulus."

Once you buy the idea that the government should be a sort of year-around Santa Claus, you have bought the kinds of consequences that follow.

The results are not pretty, as we can see on TV, in pictures of rioters in the streets, smashing and burning the property of innocent people, who had nothing to do with giving them unrealistic hopes of living off somebody else, or with the inevitable disappointing of those hopes with cutbacks on the giveaways.

Nothing is easier for politicians than to play Santa Claus by promising benefits, without mentioning the costs-- or lying about the costs and leaving it to future governments to figure out what to do when the money runs out.

In the United States, the biggest and longest-running scam of this sort is Social Security. Fulfilling all the promises that were made, as commitments in the law, would cost more money than Social Security has ever had.

This particular scam has kept going for generations by the fact that the first generation-- a small generation-- that paid into Social Security had its pensions paid by the money that the second and much bigger "baby boom" generation paid in.

What the first generation got back in benefits was far greater than what they themselves had paid in. It was something for nothing-- apparently.

This is the way a Ponzi scheme works, with the first wave of "investors" getting paid with the money paid in by the second wave. But, like Social Security, a Ponzi scheme creates no wealth but only an illusion that cannot last. That is why Mr. Ponzi was sent to prison. But politicians get re-elected for doing the same thing.

As the baby boomers begin to retire, and there are now fewer working people per retired person to pay for Social Security pensions, this scam is likewise headed for a rude revelation of reality-- and perhaps riots like those in Europe.

All the incentives are for politicians to do what they have done, namely to promise benefits without raising enough taxes to pay for them. That way, it looks like you are getting something for nothing.

When crunch time comes and politicians are either going to have to tell people the truth or raise taxes, the almost inevitable choice is to raise taxes. If the people think they are already taxed too much, then the taxes can be raised only for people designated as "the rich."

If "the rich" object, then demagogues can denounce them for their selfishness and "greed" for objecting to turning over ever-growing amounts of what they have earned to politicians.

Economists often make stronger objections than the high-income people themselves. That is because history has shown repeatedly that very high rates of taxation lead to all sorts of ways by which those very high rates of taxation do not have to be paid.

No matter how high the tax rates are, they do not bring in more revenue when many of the people subject to those tax rates do not in fact pay them. The scams inherent in welfare states are not only economically counterproductive, they turn group against group, straining the ties that hold a society together.

Free or Fair?

Free or Fair?
By Walter E. Williams

At first blush, the mercantilists' call for "free trade but fair trade" sounds reasonable. After all, who can be against fairness? Giving the idea just a bit of thought suggests that fairness as a guide for public policy lays the groundwork for tyranny. You say, "Williams, I've never heard anything so farfetched! Explain yourself."

Think about the First Amendment to our Constitution that reads: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

How many of us would prefer that the Founders had written the First Amendment so as to focus on fairness rather than freedom and instead wrote: Congress shall make no unfair laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the fair exercise thereof; or abridging the fairness of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble in a fair fashion, and to fairly petition the Government for a redress of grievances"?

How supportive would you be to a person who argued that he was for free religion but fair religion, or he was for free speech but fair speech? Would you be supportive of government efforts to limit unfair religion and unfair speech? How might life look under a regime of fairness of religion, speech and the press?

Suppose a newspaper published a statement like "President Obama might easily end his term alongside Jimmy Carter as one of America's worse presidents." Some people might consider that fair speech while other people denounce it as unfair speech. What to do? A tribunal would have to be formed to decide on the fairness or unfairness of the statement. It goes without saying that the political makeup of the tribunal would be a matter of controversy. Once such a tribunal was set up, how much generalized agreement would there be on what it decreed? And, if deemed unfair speech, what should the penalties be?

The bottom line is that what's fair or unfair is an elusive concept and the same applies to trade. Last summer, I purchased a 2010 LS 460 Lexus, through a U.S. intermediary, from a Japanese producer for $70,000. Here's my question to you: Was that a fair or unfair trade? I was free to keep my $70,000 or purchase the car. The Japanese producer was free to keep his Lexus or sell me the car. As it turned out, I gave up my $70,000 and took possession of the car, and the Japanese producer gave up possession of the car and took possession of my money. The exchange occurred because I saw myself as being better off and so did the Japanese producer. I think it was both free and fair trade, and I'd like an American mercantilist to explain to me how it wasn't.

Mercantilists have absolutely no argument when we recognize that trade is mostly between individuals. Mercantilists pretend that trade occurs between nations such as U.S. trading with England or Japan to appeal to our jingoism. First, does the U.S. trade with Japan and England? In other words, is it members of the U.S. Congress trading with their counterparts in the Japanese Diet or the English Parliament? That's nonsense. Trade occurs between individuals in one country, through intermediaries, with individuals in another country.

Who might protest that my trade with the Lexus manufacturer was unfair? If you said an American car manufacturer and their union workers, go to the head of the class. They would like Congress to restrict foreign trade so that they can sell their cars at a pleasing price and their workers earn a pleasing wage. As a matter of fact, it's never American consumers who complain about cheaper prices. It's always American producers and their unions who do the complaining. That ought to tell us something.

Big Nannies of the Year

Big Nannies of the Year
By Michelle Malkin

It was a nefarious year for nettlesome nosy-bodies employed by the Nanny State. Here are the top power-grabbers of 2010 who just can't leave us alone:

-- New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Two feet of snow paralyzed trains, buses, plows and emergency vehicles in the Big Apple this week. Perhaps if Bloomberg -- the nation's top self-appointed municipal food cop -- spent more of his time on core government duties instead of waging incessant war on taxpayers' salt, soda, trans-fat and sugar intakes, his battered bailiwick would have been better equipped to weather the storm.

-- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. He proposed meddling mileage taxes, mused about a system to track drivers' routes, lobbied for high-speed rail boondoggles and promoted a "livability initiative" to limit suburban growth and force dwellers into public transportation. Then America's driving czar floated a plan earlier this fall to disable cell phones through some kind of centralized government mechanism. LaHood backed off that creepy crusade, but he is still intent on waging war against drivers who choose to use cell phones, entertainment systems and GPS devices on the road. Just last week, the unstoppable control freak proposed a new rule banning truck and bus drivers from any use of cell phones while driving -- including emergency calls on hands-free devices. His anti-car agenda is stuck in overdrive.

-- The city of Cleveland. The green police in this Midwestern metropolis made headlines in February with an intrusive plan to roll out electronic snooping trash cans -- "smart" rubbish bins bugged with radio frequency identification chips and bar codes to monitor residents' recycling habits. Violators can be fined $100. Federal stimulus money has gone to fund similar programs in Dayton, Ohio. The technology originated in Germany, was adopted by eco-authoritarians in England (where at least 500,000 trash cans are now embedded with snitch chips) and has spread across Europe. Welcome to the age of Bin Brother.

-- The city of San Francisco. The city board of supervisors recently took the "Happy" out of McDonald's Happy Meals by banning all restaurants from serving toys with children's meals that exceed arbitrary limits on calories, fat, salt and sugar. Even the mayor of the People's Republic of San Francisco opposes the latest food-control scheme. But the bossy City by the Bay continues to assault consumer freedom with bans on everything from plastic bags to pet sales and soda pop. By executive order this summer, Mayor Gavin Newsom outlawed Coke, Pepsi and Fanta Orange drinks from vending machines on city property. The decree dictates that "ample choices" of water, "soy milk, rice milk and other similar dairy or non dairy milk" must instead be offered. It's not clear how vendors will be able to circumvent the city's hostility toward plastic bottles. Maybe beverages will be served straight out of those noxiously trendy reusable cloth bags?

-- The architects of Obamacare. After ramming a trillion-dollar package of unconstitutional federal health mandates down our throats, they said children and seniors would be saved, we could keep our doctors, costs would go down, and the economy would be boosted. Reality: Premiums have continued to skyrocket. Insurers nationwide have dropped child-only plans in the individual market. Obamacare taxes forced the AARP to raise its members' rates. Hospitals have stepped up layoffs and shutdowns. And millions of Americans have only been able to keep their doctors and coverage after their employers, unions or health providers begged the feds for special waivers. Heckuva job, health bureaucrats.

-- First lady Michelle Obama and Republican Mike Huckabee. Mrs. Obama first played the anti-childhood obesity card in September 2009, as a rationale for using her office to crusade for taxpayer subsidies supporting her hometown Chicago's failed Olympics bid. Her argument: Kids would stay fat, lazy and uninspired if the Daley machine didn't get its share of massive sports corporate welfare.

Next came Mrs. O's push for the $5 billion expansion of federal child nutrition programs. As I first reported in February 2010, the legislation was a pet project of the Service Employees International Union, which seeks to swell the ranks of dawn-to-dusk year-round public school food service workers who organize under the progressive activist slogan "serving justice, and serving lunch." In addition to school breakfast and lunch, the kiddie food patrol is now pushing subsidized dinner plans and summer food service to create a "stronger nutrition safety net."

Nanny State Republican Mike Huckabee, who used his bully pulpit position as Arkansas governor to campaign for Big Government-endorsed "healthier living" in public schools and private life, naturally sided with Mrs. Obama -- and took a swipe at Sarah Palin last week for criticizing the White House usurpation of parental responsibility and rights. Huckabee scoffed at the idea that the feds are "trying to force the government's desires on people." But school bake sales are already under siege, and Mrs. Obama's childhood obesity task force has already called for new and dramatic controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods. Did Huckabee miss (or does he agree with) Mrs. Obama's officious rallying cry on child nutrition: "We can't just leave it up to parents"?

God save us from more busybody bipartisanship in 2011.

The ACLU's Unholy War on Catholic Hospitals
By Michelle Malkin

Ho, ho, ho! Just in time for Christmas, the American Civil Liberties Union has launched a new salvo against people of faith. Even as billions around the world celebrate the birth of Christ, joyless, abortion-obsessed secularists never take a holiday.

On Wednesday, the ACLU sent a letter to federal health officials urging the government to force Catholic hospitals in the U.S. to perform abortions in violation of their core moral commitment to protecting the lives of the unborn. They're counting on sympathetic Obama rationing czar Donald Berwick -- a recess appointee whose radical views on wealth and health redistribution were never vetted by Congress -- to dictate which religious principles hospital operators can and cannot follow.

The ACLU reiterated its call for a federal probe -- read: fishing expedition -- of Catholic hospitals nationwide that refuse to provide "emergency" contraception and abortions to women. In practice, of course, every request for abortion is an "emergency" to the left.

The Catholic Church makes clear that it is morally permissible under certain circumstances to treat directly the cause of the mother's medical condition, even if those efforts unintentionally and indirectly cost the baby's life. But Catholic health providers must never directly trade one life for another.

Civil liberties activists have a particular vendetta against devout Phoenix Catholic Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who recently revoked the Catholic status of a rogue hospital that performed several direct abortions, provided birth control pills and presided over sterilizations against the church's ethical and religious directives for health care. "It would be unfaithful to pretend the institution is still Catholic," Olmsted concluded.

"The dioceses cannot be permitted to dictate who lives and who dies in Catholic-owned hospitals," the ACLU's lawyers fumed in response.

But shall it be left to the ACLU and Obamacare bureaucrats to determine the Catholicity of a Catholic hospital?

And shall it be left to litigious secularists to sabotage the First Amendment rights of religious-based health care entities with impunity?


The ACLU now seeks to unilaterally rewrite a federal emergency medical treatment law passed by Congress in 1986 to mandate that all hospitals provide abortions. But for more than three decades, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, federal law has firmly established strong conscience protections for individual health care providers and hospitals who are reluctant or unwilling to "counsel, suggest, recommend, assist or in any way participate in the performance of abortions or sterilizations contrary to or consistent with" their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

As the Washington-based Becket Fund, a public interest law firm that defends the free expression of all religious traditions, pointed out to the feds: "The ACLU has no business radically re-defining the meaning of emergency health care,' just as it has no business demanding that religious doctors and nurses violate their faith by performing a procedure they believe is tantamount to murder. Forcing religious hospitals to perform abortions not only undermines this nation's integral commitment to conscience rights, it violates the numerous federal laws that recognize and protect those rights."

According to the Catholic Health Association, Catholic health care facilities form the largest not-for-profit health service sector in the United States -- serving one out of every six patients in America and providing 15 percent of the hospital bed capacity in the country. Moreover, Catholic health care institutions employ about 540,000 full-time workers and 240,000 part-time workers.

If the abortion lobby gets its way, faithful Catholic hospitals and Catholic medical professionals who follow their consciences and adhere to canon law could see their federal funding yanked. And radical social engineers may well force the shutdown of countless Catholic hospitals at a time when Obamacare costs and consequences are already wreaking havoc on the health industry.

Fewer jobs, less access to health care, less freedom and more lives lost: Merry Christmas from the ACLU.

To read another article by Michelle Malkin, click here.