Category Archives: News

My thoughts on the news of the day, both local, Colorado, national and international.

Rule Five Inauguration Day Friday

Programming note:  This post was finalized and scheduled last night, as this morning I have departed early to drive west, from Denver to Silicon Valley via Las Vegas.  There I will spend the next 6-12 months helping a Valley company get their Quality Management ducks all in a row, and if I were a religious man I would add “and may God have mercy on my soul.”  There are few places on the planet where I fit in less than Californey, and the Bay Area is one of the nuttiest environs in a nutty state.

But still, as I’m fond of pointing out, they pay me to go where the work is, not where the fun is.

Moving right along:  It’s Trump Day!  At noon EST today, The Donald takes the reins of power from outgoing President Obama – the very reins he pretty much grabbed from the lamest of lame ducks some time ago.  Today’s ceremonies just make it official.  But it’s significant, as this heralds another peaceful transition of power, one that goes back to when George Washington peacefully left office in 1797, handed the reins of power over to John Adams and went back to his farm, making the world’s kings, queens, emperors and potentates let out a collective “…what the fuck?”

Note that qualifier:  “Peaceful” transition of power.  It may be technically peaceful, but it remains to be seen how peaceful the Imperial capital will be while the ceremonies take place.  Notorious dissembler and blowpig Micheal Moore has promised to lead a protest, and an unprecedented number of Democratic pols are protesting by eschewing the inaugural festivities.

One could apply the term “sore loser,” but by all means let us be generous and apply the benefit of the doubt, that they are being sincere in their convictions, no matter how misguided.

So, what shall we expect to see in this brave new world, with our unexpected, unprecedented and somewhat surreal real-estate mogul/developer/reality TV star President?  Here are some tidbits:

As I’ve been saying for a while now, it’s going to be an interesting four years – hell, it’s going to be an interesting first 100 days, traditionally that magical interval in which a new President expends a bunch of political capital to get agenda items implemented while the blush is still on the rose.

Here’s where it’s going to be different this time, True Believers; this rose has no blush.  Never did, never will.  The Donald won the GOP nomination over the objections of much of his own party, and won election (handily) in what a lot of folks, yr. obdt. included, saw as an unexpected upset.  Most of the legacy media makes little effort to conceal their contempt for The Donald, and the feeling is certainly mutual.

But if he follows through on some of his stated positions – tax rate cuts, repairing the ACA, reducing regulation, and if we can persuade him to maybe eliminate a few unnecessary Imperial agencies, we may just have a few pretty prosperous years ahead.  Cross your fingers!  It’s going to be an exciting ride.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Ever gotten a traffic-cam ticket?  So has this guy:  That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century.  Excerpt:

We proceeded to trial. The city produced one witness, the police officer who had signed the affidavit. On direct examination, he explained how the traffic camera system works. A corporation in another state called American Traffic Solutions operates the camera system, chooses the photographs on which to predicate enforcement, recommends the Montgomery police department initiate an action against a vehicle’s owner, and is paid for its work.

On cross-examination, I established that:

  • He was not present at the time of the alleged violation.
  • He has no photographic evidence of the driver.
  • There were no witnesses.
  • He does not know where Adam MacLeod was at the time of the alleged violation.

And so on. I then asked the question one is taught never to ask on cross—the last one. “So, you signed an affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury alleging probable cause to believe that Adam MacLeod committed a violation of traffic laws without any evidence that was so?”

Without hesitating he answered, “Yes.” This surprised both of us. It also surprised the judge, who looked up from his desk for the first time. A police officer had just testified under oath that he perjured himself in service to a city government and a mysterious, far-away corporation whose officers probably earn many times his salary.

The city then rested its case. I renewed my motion to dismiss, which the judge immediately granted.

I’m not sure I’d call this the Constitutional trial of the century, especially given that the century is only sixteen years old; but it does set a very interesting precedent, and provides a template for anyone caught in one of these traffic-cam scams.

Note the key thing on which the case turns:  The traffic-cam citation appears to have been issued to a vehicle.  There was no attempt to establish that the vehicle’s registered owner was in fact the person that committed the infraction; in any sane system, Mr. MacLeod’s establishing that he was in a faculty meeting miles away at the time of the infraction should have resulted in an immediate dismissal.

Instead, read the entire article and you’ll see the laughable circumlocutions the court went to to try to preserve their case – and the traffic-cam system.

We have stoplight-mounted traffic cams here in the Denver area, too.  It’s a horrible system that should be removed, but one suspects it will take some more cases like this one to convince cities to remove that revenue stream.

 

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Barking MoonbatPirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

It’s not often I read about a proposed piece of legislation at the Imperial level and think, “hey, that’s actually not a bad idea!”  But Wisconsin’s own Jim Sensenbrenner has one such idea – shut down the BATFE.  Here’s the bit from his web page:

Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced the ATF Elimination Act, legislation that would dissolve the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and merge its exclusive duties into existing federal agencies. 

Additionally, the Act calls for an immediate hiring freeze at the agency and requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to eliminate and reduce duplicative functions and waste, as well as report to Congress with a detailed plan on how the transition will take place. Further, it would transfer enforcement of firearms, explosives and arson laws to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and illegal diversion of alcohol and tobacco products would be transferred to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). 

Under this bill, the DEA and FBI would be required to submit to Congress a plan for winding down the affairs of the ATF after no more than 180 days, and field offices, along with other buildings and assets of the ATF, would be transferred to the FBI. It would have one year to report excess property to the General Services Administration (GSA).

Let’s forget for a moment the inefficient, possibly unConstitutional and scandal-ridden mess that the BATFE has been since at least the late 1980s.  Look at the larger precedent set; this bill would shut down an entire Imperial agency largely due to the fact that other, existing Imperial agencies can easily absorb their function, and probably do a better job of it.

This kind of legislation is tailor-made for the incoming Trump Administration’s stated goal of ‘draining the swamp.’  Here, Mr. Trump, is a pretty good puddle to start with.   If we can make this happen, let’s get some Cabinet-level agencies up next on the block – say, Energy, Education, Commerce, and a few more.

Personally I stand with Barry Goldwater, who famously said: I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

We may just have a chance to do that now.  I say, let’s get cracking.

Rule Five Bad Decisions Friday

Ever given any thought to the worst Supreme Court in recent history?  I’m not talking about miscarriages of justice like the Dred Scott decision; I’m talking about the post-Depression era, when many of the Imperial institutions in place today were brought into play.

When posed this question, many will mention Roe v. Wade, or some other decision on social issues.  I’m not talking about those, at least not today.  And I’m not denying there have been some good decisions in recent years, particularly on Second Amendment issues.

But one decision paved the way for a massive expansion of Imperial power on commerce; it was a bad decision, it was unjust, and it should be overturned.  That 1942 decision was Wickard v. Filburn, which opened up the definition of “interstate commerce” to include anything Congress thinks it should mean.  Here’s a summary of that decision:

An Ohio farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat for use to feed animals on his own farm. The U.S. government had established limits on wheat production based on acreage owned by a farmer, in order to stabilize wheat prices and supplies. In 1941 Filburn grew more than the limits permitted and he was ordered to pay a penalty of $117.11. He claimed his wheat was not sold in interstate commerce and so the penalty could not apply to him. The Supreme Court stated “The intended disposition of the crop here involved has not been expressly stated” and later “Whether the subject of the regulation in question was ‘production’, ‘consumption’, or ‘marketing’ is, therefore, not material for purposes of deciding the question of federal power before us … [b]ut even if appellee’s activity be local and though it may not be regarded as commerce, it may still, whatever its nature, be reached by Congress if it exerts a substantial economic effect on interstate commerce and this irrespective of whether such effect is what might at some earlier time have been defined as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’.”[4]

The Supreme Court interpreted the United States Constitution‘s Commerce Clause under Article 1 Section 8, which permits the United States Congress “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” The Court decided that Filburn’s wheat growing activities reduced the amount of wheat he would buy for animal feed on the open market, which is traded nationally (interstate), and is therefore within the purview of the Commerce Clause. Although Filburn’s relatively small amount of production of more wheat than he was allotted would not affect interstate commerce itself, the cumulative actions of thousands of other farmers just like Filburn would certainly become substantial. Therefore, according to the court, Filburn’s production could be regulated by the federal government.

The decision turned on the idea that a crop, like wheat, is a fungible commodity, and that a farmer growing wheat on his own land for his own use has some effect on the overall price of the commodity.  The decision involved the Constitutionality of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1938, a statute that is in and of itself in direct conflict with fundamental liberties and free markets.

Look, though, at the original issue here.  The Imperial government, then under President Franklin Roosevelt, held that the Congress has the ability to regulate the growing of a crop on private land for personal use.  The result of this is that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution exploded to cover any damn thing that Congress can possibly shoehorn into that definition.

That’s insane.  The argument is that the fungibility of a crop and the Imperial government’s unfair and unreasonable controls of the prices of agricultural commodities overrules the rights of a private citizen to grow crops on private land for personal use.

I’ve stated repeatedly in these virtual pages that there are two principles that are paramount in a free society:  Liberty and Property.   Wickard v. Filburn violates both of those principles.  This decision, along with the the Agricultural Adjustment Act and it’s successors, should be overturned.  I’d like to see the incoming Trump Administration, which has paid lip service to free markets, to move in this direction; to overturn one of the most liberty-restrictive laws and supporting Supreme Court decisions in recent history.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Guess which American cities are going broke.  Excerpt:

Chicago and New York rank at the bottom of a new analysis of fiscal strength based primarily on data from 2015 financial reports issued by the cities themselves. The analysis includes 116 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000. See the full rankings here.

Chicago’s position at the bottom of the ranking is no surprise to anyone who follows municipal finance. The Windy City has become a poster child for financial mismanagement, having suffered a series of ratings downgrades in recent years. Aside from having thin reserves and large volumes of outstanding debt, Chicago is notorious for its underfunded pension plans.

For example, the city’s Municipal Employees’ Annuity and Benefit Fund (MEABF) reported $4.7 billion in assets and $14.7 billion of actuarially accrued liabilities at the end of 2015, representing a funded ratio of just 33 percent. The actuarial calculations rely on a controversial practice of discounting future benefits at a rate of 7.5 percent, which is the assumed return on the fund’s portfolio return. If a more conservative assumption was employed, MEABF’s liabilities would be higher and its funded ratio lower.

And:

While Chicago’s place at the bottom of the list is unsurprising, New York City’s position — just one step above — was unexpected. An extended bull market and soaring real estate prices have pumped money into the Big Apple’s coffers. Total municipal revenues rose from $60 billion in 2009 to $81 billion in 2015. But the city has been spending the money almost as quickly as it has been coming in.

At the end of its 2015 fiscal year, the city’s general fund reserves amounted to just 0.67 percent of expenditures — well below the Government Finance Officers Association recommendation of 16.67 percent (equivalent to two months of spending). A city’s general fund is roughly analogous to an individual’s checking account.

Here’s the common thread at the root of all these municipal bankruptcies:  Public-sector unions.

I have no issue with unions in private business, as long as membership in said unions is strictly voluntary, and as long as unionization in those businesses is by secret ballot.  In these cases, contracts are decided between the union membership and the employer.

Public sector unions are different.  Public sector unions negotiate their contracts with the very politicians whose campaigns they (heavily) fund.  That is a deep and fundamental conflict of interest that cannot be reconciled.  No less than Franklin Roosevelt agreed that this conflict of interest should preclude the legality of public sector unions.

There is no better illustration of such conflict than the cities of Chicago and New York.  Public sector employees typically enjoy benefits far, far above any equivalent worker in the private sector (when was the last time you heard of a private company offering a defined-benefit pension plan?) and pay that is at least on a par, if not above the private sector.

It’s driving our major cities into bankruptcy.

Rule Five Blind Hogs And Acorns Friday

Brit uber-liberal Piers Morgan finds an acorn – sort of.  Excerpt:

Obama’s spent the past few weeks charging around like a guy who’s watching the clock tick down and is desperate to snatch some semblance of victory from the jaws of a crushing, humiliating defeat.

Since the election, as the New York Times reported, he’s banned oil drilling off the Atlantic coast, named over 100 people to a range of senior government jobs, created new environmental monuments, commuted the sentences of 232 inmates and pardoned 78 others, protected funding for Planned Parenthood clinics, ordered the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay and blocked new Israeli settlements.

As some critics sneer, it’s more governing than he’s done in eight years.

Thus far, Morgan is correct.  President Obama has spent the last few weeks thrashing around like a spoiled child being sent to bed early; his legacy is crumbling, The Donald has promised to dismantle most of his key accomplishments (which, certainly, is a good part of the reason why he was elected.)  In 2009 the incoming President-elect Obama praised outgoing President Bush for the helpful and gracious way he managed the transition, but Obama doesn’t seem inclined to follow suit, and what’s more, he and his staff seem wildly deluded as to how successful he actually was; as Morgan points out:

His senior adviser Valerie Jarrett had people choking on their cornflakes on Sunday when she absurdly claimed that ‘dignified’ Obama’s greatest pride was in avoidance of any scandal during his presidency.

Really, Valerie?

What about the Benghazi fiasco?

Or the IRS shambles?

Or the Obamacare disintegration?

Or the shameful broken promises to the Sandy Hook families about new gun laws?

Or the failure to stop Putin and Assad’s monstrous behaviour in Syria?

All good points.  But here’s where Morgan wanders off course (my comments interposed):

Yes he killed Bin Laden,  (No; a Navy SEAL team killed Bin Laden, although President Obama OKed the move) yes he stopped America careering into an even bigger financial abyss after the 2008 crash, (Not really, no; he doubled the national debt and presided over 8 years of the slowest economic growth in our history) yes he got unemployment back to a reasonable level, (and yet labor participation rate is lower than it’s been since the 1970s) and yes he’s legalized gay marriage (No, the Supreme Court did that) and cannabis. (No, several states have legalized marijuana; Obama has done nothing on that front.)

As stated earlier, even blind hogs occasionally find acorns.  Piers Morgan has found one – but then, before even concluding one article, he veers back into a pile of the stuff swine are much better known for.

Nobody should be surprised by that, of course.  When a dog pisses on a fire hydrant, he’s not committing vandalism; he’s just being a dog.  Ditto for Morgan.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

This in yesterday’s WaPo:  Claiming mandate, GOP Congress lays plans to propel sweeping conservative agenda.  Excerpt:

For six years, since they took back the House of Representatives, Republicans have added to a pile of legislation that moldered outside the White House. In their thwarted agenda, financial regulations were to be unspooled. Business taxes were to be slashed. Planned Parenthood would be stripped of federal funds. The ­Affordable Care Act was teed up for repeal — dozens of times.

When the 115th Congress begins this week, with Republicans firmly in charge of the House and Senate, much of that legislation will form the basis of the most ambitious conservative policy agenda since the 1920s. And rather than a Democratic president standing in the way, a soon-to-be-inaugurated Donald Trump seems ready to sign much of it into law.

The dynamic reflects just how ready Congress is to push through a conservative makeover of government, and how little Trump’s unpredictable, attention-grabbing style matters to the Republican game plan.

That plan was long in the making.

Almost the entire agenda has already been vetted, promoted and worked over by Republicans and think tanks that look at the White House less for leadership and more for signing ceremonies.

Two years.  The GOP has, guaranteed, two years of absolute control; they hold the House, the Senate, and the Imperial Mansion.  For the most part they can do whatever the hell they want (as Democrats could and did in 2009-2010) and it looks like they are planning precisely that.

For the Democrat’s part, it looks like they will resist as much as possible.  And that’s OK – they are representing their constituents.  In the last few years, it was common for those on the Left to complain that the Congressional GOP was “blocking the President” at every turn; well, one might reply that they were doing their jobs.  House and Senate Republicans ran, for the most part, on halting the Obama agenda; once elected, they proceeded to do that.  House and Senate Democrats now will be expected by Democrat voters to block as much of The Donald’s agenda as they can.

That’s how the game is played, True Believers.

But here’s the rub; as with the GOP in 2009-2010, the Dems don’t have many cards to play.  Two years of pretty much uncontested GOP control lie ahead.  I expect we’ll see most of the ACA repealed; we’ll see (hopefully) a national CCW reciprocity law.  We’ll see a pretty strong conservative agenda implanted, and we’ll see conservative justices appointed to the Federal courts and to fill the one current vacancy on the Supreme Court, the one (as I predicted) left empty in the split-second interim between seated Congresses.

It’s going to be an interesting couple of years.

Animal’s Daily News

Could President Obama be thinking of pulling a fast one on the Supreme Court vacancy?  (Note, added later – he didn’t.)  Excerpt:

President Obama will have one last chance to force Judge Merrick Garland onto the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday — but it’s a legal gamble and one that has so many pitfalls that even those who say he could get away with it believe it isn’t worth the fight.

Mr. Obama’s moment will come just before noon, in the five minutes that the Senate gavels the 114th Congress out of session and the time the 115th Congress begins.

In those few moments the Senate will go into what’s known as an “intersession recess,” creating one golden moment when the president could test his recess-appointment powers by sending Judge Garland to the high court.

A smattering of activists has asked him to give it a try, but Mr. Obama has given no indication that he’s thinking about it. The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment for this story.

The move would be a legal gamble under the high court’s last ruling in 2014 on recess appointments. That 9-0 decision overturned a handful of Mr. Obama’s early 2012 picks, saying the Senate was actually in session when the president acted, so he couldn’t use his powers.

That ruling also said, however, that there’s a difference between appointments made during the annual yearlong session of Congress, dubbed “intrasession,” which Mr. Obama used in 2012, and picks made at the end of the year, after Congress adjourns, which are known as “intersession.”

I’m going to guess the answer to this is “no.”  He won’t try it.  A RealClear Politics article on the same topic says:

Why expend energy debating the recess appointment proposal when there is little chance Obama would even consider it? Because if the left treats the idea as legitimate, it also creates a false narrative of the Democratic Party as patsies, while weakening the ability of the left to challenge Donald Trump should he snub the Constitution.

“Democrats, in short, bring a butter knife to a gunfight,” concludes Dayen. “They may be correct on the merits that institutional norms allow the government to function properly. But as long as Republicans don’t care about such niceties, that respect is equivalent to surrender.”

Even so, I’m guessing this lamest of lame ducks won’t try it.  The GOP wielded a powerful weapon by refusing to consider Garland’s nomination; Harry Reid already handed the Republicans a potent tactic by ruling out the use of filibusters to delay or preclude most other Presidential appointments.  If the President and the Democrats are smart enough to pound sand (the jury is out on that) then they won’t take the chance of setting a precedent that an outgoing Republican President might use against them.

No; the appointment will be The Donald’s to make.

Goodbye, Blue 2017 Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

2017 is here!  To open this auspicious new year, first we’ll extend our thanks once again to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links.

File this under “Doubling Down on Stupid”:  California is trying even harder to drive small businesses out of the state.  Excerpt:

With California in full revolt against the incoming Trump Administration swearing to go to war with the other 49 states, the elected Leftists who run the state struck again against small businesses in the state. The government enacted 900 (yes, you read that correctly) new laws for 2017. One they snuck under everyone’s nose is a revision of the very expensive worker’s comp system.

As you probably know worker’s compensation insurance is paid by employers to cover medical costs for an employee getting injured on the job. It is a sure bet, as you suspected, that California has the costliest worker’s comp rates at $3.24 per $100 of payroll. The next most costly state is New Jersey which is 10% lower ($2.92 per $100). To give you an idea what the insurance rate is in sane states the rate in North Dakota is about 25% of California ($.89 per $100) or Indiana at $1.06 of $100.

This cost has contributed to driving businesses out of state and having existing employers avoid paying the rates like the Plague. Because making claims in California are so easy and adjudication of claims is so pro-employee, rates often rise for employers after they make their initial payments. As an employer you want to avoid this cost especially for owners of your corporation or partnership (LLC). Owners would almost never use anything other than their personal medical policy to cover any medical costs so they could avoid this secondary medical system and the related costs. No more in California.

Here you see the consequences of single-party rule of a major state.

Economics doesn’t really have a lot of hard and fast laws, but it does have a few; one of them is supply and demand.  The vast majority of new jobs created in our economy are created by small businesses.  Why?  It’s simple; they grow, sometimes dramatically, and growth usually requires more employees.  Big, mature companies like Ford Motors or even Microsoft hire mostly to address attrition, as people quit or retire.  But a successful startup may employ ten people this year, fifty people next year, and two hundred the year after that.

That’s the engine of growth in our economy.  Californey intends, apparently, to crush that growth by raising the price of a key commodity – labor – and thereby reduce the supply of said labor that is economically attainable by small business.

Incidentally, minimum-wage laws do the same thing.

Maybe California’s secession from the Union wouldn’t be such a bad thing.