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September 30, 2010

The CARE Act: Competition in Alcohol Reduction Effort

While the “commerce clause” of the United States Constitution limits Congress to passing laws involving interstate commerce, lawmakers have long taken an expansive view of what constitutes interstate commerce believing it empowers them to regulate such things as the medical care you receive in your home town to the wheat you grow in your backyard for your own family. But they do know where to draw the line:

Regulating actual interstate commerce.

And so a bill making its way through the House of Representatives would address the federal government’s outrageous intrusion into interstate commerce by returning those powers to the individual states when it comes to the distribution of alcoholic beverages.

Called the “Comprehensive Alcohol Regulatory Effectiveness Act” or “CARE,” the legislation would coincidentally protect the powerful state middlemen who sell alcoholic beverages and are often the beneficiaries of the complicated and monopolistic multi-tiered distribution systems created to keep out competitors. However, that is not why the members of the National Beer Wholesalers Association and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America vigorously support the bill.

They support it because it ensures the effective collection of taxes.

In fact, they feel so strongly about their role in “ensuring effective state and federal tax collection” that they even helped write the bill for Congress.  (Hey, if they aren’t going to read them they certainly aren’t going to write them.)

Also, they are against taxes.

But it’s about more than collecting taxes.  State wholesalers also warn of widespread bedlam and drunkenness should we continue to allow the makers of out-of-state alcohol the ability to compete with them pointing out their role in “promoting temperance,” much in the way automobile manufacturers “promote walking” and Harry Reid  “promotes extemporaneous speaking.”

In related news, states and municipalities across the country are loosening the regulation of alcohol so more people will buy more booze and they can collect more taxes.

Looks like those wholesalers are really going to have their hands full!


September 30, 2010 at 01:55 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2010

And No, You Can’t Have Fries With That - Part 2

The last time we addressed Californians’ attempt to do something about our nation’s growing epidemic of freedom, Santa Clara County was moving forward with an ordinance to ban “Happy Meals” that come with toys unless they meet certain nutritional criteria determined by people who are not you.

Perhaps emboldened by their courage to take a stand against free choice, San Francisco is currently in the process of developing its own set of Happy Meal regulations.

As San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, the chief proponent of the standards, notes:

''There's nothing more important than the health of our children.”

Which, let’s admit, has for too long been left in the hands of their parents, and not, as is clearly desirable, in the hands of an ethnic studies professor.

One provision being Championed by Mar would mandate that the meals provide children with a serving of fruit or vegetables.  This is designed to ensure that these nutritious foods become a growing part of every Californian landfill.

As Mar says:

"As a parent, it's not just parental choice that decides what meals to serve your children. There's the heavy marketing by an industry that connects food with a toy, and that can be a powerful influence.“

Of course, it’s not just that heavy marketing is a powerful influence on parental choice, it’s that, as in Santa Clara, parents are making the wrong choices.

Really, if you people would just cooperate a little bit more, this would be a whole lot easier.  But if you’re unwilling to choose the apple slices over the French fries, well, somebody is just going to have to make that choice for you.

But don’t feel too badly. Mar doesn’t believe the responsibility really rests with you, anyway, but rather:

“It's the responsibility of the industry to promote healthy choices."

We know what you’re thinking, “I am SO craving a Big Mac right now.”

Also, “I thought it was the responsibility of the industry to provide customers with food they want at prices they are willing to pay.”

That’s the old way of thinking.  The new way is to view restaurants not so much as private businesses offering desirable products at attractive prices but more as social service agencies providing products you would want if you were as good a parent as Eric Mar.

However, Mar is willing to be reasonable.  There is the multigrain compromise for example and a proposal to require only fruit be provided at breakfast, with a legislative aid noting:

"Typically, many people might not eat vegetables for breakfast.”

And people say our leaders are out of touch with the people.

So, to sum up:

  1. You are a bad parent.
  2. McDonald's is irresponsible.
  3. Eric Mar likes children.

Now quit whining and finish your broccoli.  It's the law.

Or at least should be.


September 28, 2010 at 03:13 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 23, 2010

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, My Insurance Premiums Are Getting Steep…

This week, President Obama appealed to religious leaders to help improve his own standing and the Democratic Party’s election prospects this fall by asking them to help convince their congregants to support the unpopular Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” telling them,

“I think all of you can be really important validators and trusted resources for friends and neighbors.”

We should probably point out that it is completely appropriate for the President to ask religious leaders to take advantage of people seeking spiritual guidance by trying to sell them on a program for purely partisan political gain.

After all, isn’t that why people turn to the church in the first place? To seek out “trusted resources” in their search for eternal salvation and a clearer explanation of the methodology to be used to calculate medical loss ratios?

Come to think of it, religion and Obamacare have a lot in common.

First, trusting in Obamacare requires a certain degree of blind faith, such as a belief that a new trillion-dollar entitlement will help reduce costs and lower the deficit. Yes, your faith will be sorely tested. You will find yourself betrayed by those you once trusted. But forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Second, both God and insurance companies often act in mysterious ways, beyond the comprehension of mere mortals and/or members of the Obama Administration.

For example, just as it is sometimes difficult to understand why God allows certain things to happen, White House officials are similarly mystified as to why requiring health insurance companies to add costly benefits somehow results in increased costs.  Even worse, in a process that Obama Administration officials, being mere mortals and so lacking divine wisdom or possibly practical business experience, find baffling, this can lead to not only higher insurance premiums, but insurance companies exiting entire lines of business.  What strange and wrathful forces could possibly be at play to explain this?

Why have you forsaken us, Cigna? Why?

One administration official summed it up, saying:

"We believe community-based and faith-based can spread the word. They are reaching people every day in churches, synagogues, mosques and secular organizations. They can spread the word about these things."

How about a little prayer?

They’re going to need it:

Our President, who art in Washington,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Administration come.
Thy will be done
In Congress as it is in Chicago.
Give us this day our mandated health care,
And forgive us our doubts.
As we forgive those who doubt against you.
And lead us not into free markets,
But deliver us from capitalism.


September 23, 2010 at 03:20 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 22, 2010

The Witch Is Starting To Look Less Crazy

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich says author Dinesh D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into the source of President Obama’s behavior and policies as president:

His “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview that has been passed on to him from the African father he barely knew.

Sure, now that someone lays it out like that, it seems obvious.  We frankly feel a little silly now that we didn’t notice earlier that Obama is governing based on the beliefs of a man who abandoned him when he was two years old.  But hey, that’s time enough to learn to walk, use a toilet, and become fluent in neocolonial oppression and post-imperial redistributive property doctrines.

As D’Souza puts it, “No explanation other than anticolonialism makes sense of Obama's curious mandate to convert a space agency into a Muslim and international outreach.”  Indeed, no other explanation has anywhere near the obvious credibility that America is “being governed by a ghost” of the President’s late absentee father. (Maybe he’s trying to make up for lost time.)

Although this does leave open the question of why people who are not channeling the spirit of their anti-colonialist Kenyan father also support the NASA outreach.

Regardless, this got us to thinking.  If we truly want to understand what motivates the President, we need to reexamine his past to see what other clues may be lurking there.

For example, to truly grasp why Obama moved so quickly to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Act extending the statute of limitations on gender pay discrimination look no further than the years he spent in Indonesia, which up until the 16th century AD was predominantly Hindu, a religion that in ancient times revered women.

It’s easy when you approach it with real intellectual rigor.

What about the President’s seemingly single-minded devotion to passing health care reform?  It is obvious now that while living in Honolulu, Obama must have been exposed to the traditions of “The Seven Principles of Huna,” a part of ancient Hawaiian healing wisdom that includes the concept of “Pono,” which holds that harmony is a measure of truth, truth is a living presence in life, and copays should be eliminated for procedures associated with preventive care.

As for his aggressive pursuit of clean-energy initiatives and green jobs, we at first thought it might have something to do with the paternal grandfather he’d never met and his tribe’s traditional dependence on the natural bounty of Lake Victoria but now we think he just saw Avatar.

Remember back when liberals used to psychoanalyze President Bush? Crazy times those were.


September 22, 2010 at 03:20 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2010

We Once Dabbled In “Arts And Crafts” Which Is Almost As Disturbing

A matchup pitting “The Bearded Marxist” against “The Witch” sounds like something Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon might have concocted for her World Wrestling franchise and not an actual Senate race.

However, since the primary winners were chosen in Delaware last week, there have been some interesting revelations regarding the candidates.

Pentagram First, television clips from 1999 have emerged in which GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell said she had “dabbled in witchcraft.”

Now to be fair, in the same clip she notes that, “I never joined a coven,” so it wasn’t like she was a full-fledged witch, just that one of her first dates with a witch “was on a satanic altar… there’s a little blood there and stuff like that.”

As we like to say around here, “no hex, no foul.”

Hammer and Sickle In contrast, Democratic nominee Chris Coons was accused of having come back from a trip to Kenya in 1985 a “bearded Marxist,” based on little more than an article he wrote for his college paper titled:

“Chris Coons: The Making of a Bearded Marxist”

Those conservative wingnuts will try to distort anything.

As his defenders on the left point out, Chris coons never said he was a bearded Marxist.  As he wrote in the piece:

“My friends now joke that something about Kenya, maybe the strange diet, or the tropical sun, changed my personality; Africa to them seems a catalytic converter that takes in clean-shaven, clear thinking Americans and sends back bearded Marxists.”

You see, his friends said he was a bearded Marxist, not Coons.  Maybe his friends wrote the headline too, possibly getting the wrong idea from Coons when he said things like:

“We also studied the myth of equal opportunity in this country.”

“Cultural Anthropology… undermined the accepted value of progress and the cultural superiority of the West.”

“I came to suspect… that the ideal of America as a ‘beacon of freedom and justice, providing hope for the world’ was not exactly based on reality.”

“My own favorite beliefs in the miracles of free enterprise and the boundless opportunities to be had in America might be largely untrue.”

And searching for the answer to the question:

“Is Marxism and evil ideology, leading millions into totalitarian slavery?”

In fairness, this was before Google.

So, given the choice between the Marxist and the Witch, which would you choose?

We’re going to have to go with the Witch because, as Harry Reid might say, she's "the hottest" of the two.


September 21, 2010 at 02:35 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 20, 2010

We’re Probably Lucky It Wasn’t More Successful

As the anniversary approaches, the headlines have proliferated:

TARP: A success none dare mention

A Lonely Success
Don’t forget: the bailouts worked.

TARP, the successful orphan

This is part of an attempt by "opinion leaders" to patiently explain to people who are not opinion leaders why we should love the TARP program.

Perhaps we all need to recall how dire and dark those days were when we were first told in the gravest terms possible that it was absolutely necessary for us to pay for a $700 billion fund that would be used to purchase the troubled assets held by the nation’s banks lest we plunge into the dark abyss of financial Armageddon. Hence the name, “Troubled Asset Relief Program.”

Days after TARP passed, it was decided that it was not, after all, absolutely necessary to purchase the troubled assets held by the nation’s banks lest we plunge into the dark abyss of financial Armageddon, but instead, in order to avoid plunging into the dark abyss of financial Armageddon we had to:

Reward the investors and employees of failed banks for their bad decisions.

Purchase automobile companies.

Pay for other people’s mortgages.

President Bush warned us at the time what would happen if we failed to pass TARP:

More banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet. Foreclosures would rise dramatically. And if you own a business or a farm, you would find it harder and more expensive to get credit. More businesses would close their doors, and millions of Americans could lose their jobs. Even if you have good credit history, it would be more difficult for you to get the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. And ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession.

But because the United States Congress had the courage and wisdom to pass TARP and spend $700 billion we didn't have on failed banks, auto companies, and paying other people's mortgages, we have instead seen more banks failing, the stock market dropping, home values plummeting, home foreclosures rising, credit harder to get, more businesses closing their doors, millions of Americans losing their jobs, the longest recession since WWII, and a still-struggling recovery.

We sure ducked a bullet on that one!

So please join us in celebrating the success of TARP and just ignore all those naysayers out there. The opinion leaders say so, and it's their job to have opinions, okay? You're just an amateur.

Now we just have to wait for the opinion leaders to tell us how successful health care reform is going to be!


September 20, 2010 at 03:41 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 18, 2010

The DISCLOSE ACT: Diminishing Independent-Spirited Citizens’ Liberty On Speech Effectively

The President really came out swinging this morning against those who are holding up passage of the “DISCLOSE Act,” a piece of legislation that vastly expands the reporting requirements demanded of those wishing to express political opinions.

The President laid out the dangers of such reckless speech mongering in stark language:

"Now, as an election approaches, it’s not just a theory.  We can see for ourselves how destructive to our democracy this can become.  We see it in the flood of deceptive attack ads sponsored by special interests using front groups with misleading names.  We don’t know who’s behind these ads or who’s paying for them."

Do you think he meant “Health Care for America Now” and their backing by the Service Employees International Union?

We didn’t either.

Sadly, our country has a long history of special interests operating under the cloak of anonymity in an attempt to influence political opinion to their favor.

For example, there was the infamous, “Common Sense,” a misleadingly named pamphlet which engaged in deceptive attacks against the incumbent government, going so far as to claim that “the king is not to be trusted without being looked after.”  Because it was published anonymously at the time, the author, Thomas Paine would have run afoul of Sec. 201(a) of the DISCLOSE Act which reads in part:

“…that, when taken as a whole, expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate,… taking into account whether the communication involved mentions a candidacy, a political party, or a challenger to a candidate, or takes a position on a candidate’s character, qualifications, or fitness for office;”

I think we can all agree that the British Red Coats had every right to know who was behind these vicious attacks the better to be able to make “an informed judgment about a group’s motivations.”

And then there were “The Federalist Papers.”  While each was signed “Publius,” the true identities of the authors was a secret but is believed today to have been Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, each of whom probably had ties to “big whale oil.”

We must put an end to this kind of Wild West approach to expressing opinions  before it does any more damage.  Allowing both organizations and individuals to hold those in power accountable for their actions without first getting all their paperwork in order with the proper authorities is, as the President says, “a power grab, pure and simple.”

You know what’s not a power grab?  Placing an ever-increasing labyrinth of rules and regulations on those attempting to have a say in who runs the country. 

According to the President, “this is common sense.”

It’s common sense to require individuals who spend $10,000 “during the period up to and including the 20th day before the date of an election,” to file a report with the government.  It’s also common sense to require individuals who spend $1,000 “during the period after the 20th day, but more than 24 hours, before the date of an election” to do the same.

It’s about time somebody did something about these thousandaires who think their money can just buy them an election.

Of course, the law does make some common-sense exceptions such as:

“The term ‘coordinated communication’ does not include--

(A) a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate”

This is known as “the MSNBC exception.”

And naturally, large non-profit organizations such as the NRA and the Sierra Club are exceptions as are most union members.

But that’s just common sense.

All the President is trying to do is “fix” the problem, that problem being the United States Constitution, so that when you see an advertisement making a political argument you will be “able to make an informed judgment about a group’s motivations.”

Because as we all know, it’s not whether your political message is true or logical or well informed that matters.

It’s why you are making it.



September 18, 2010 at 10:08 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 16, 2010

We Suppose We Could Always Try Bailing Out Another Automobile Company. Our Vote: Delorean

One could argue that President Obama has made some missteps in addressing our economic downturn, partly because he spent the first eighteen months of his administration not addressing our economic downturn.

Okay, that’s not entirely fair. He did thoughtfully provide tens of billions of dollars to the teacher’s unions not to mention engaging in a classical Keynesian counter-cyclical plan to “prime the pump” of the nation’s vital caulk industry but neither seemed to really do the trick.

But that has all changed as it appears he and his economic team have found the root cause of the financial crisis that has gripped the nation since 2008:

Insufficient levels of linguistically and culturally appropriate outreach.

No doubt your memory has grown hazy with time, but we remember it all too well: Bear Stearns, as it struggled with a vast portfolio of linguistically inappropriate mortgage-backed derivatives. Lehman Brothers as it attempted to hide from creditors its deteriorating position in cultural outreach until it was far too late.

It was a real mess.

That is why President Obama is so excited about his $30 billion “small business jobs bill,” officially called the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010.

In fact, you can tell creating jobs is the #1 top priority of the small business jobs bill because it says right there that among the considerations the Secretary of the Treasury must take into account when implementing the program is:

“Protecting and increasing American jobs”

Well, it’s the #1 top priority right after the item above it:

“Providing funding to minority-owned eligible institutions and other eligible institutions that serve small businesses that are minority-, veteran-, and women-owned and that also serve low- and moderate-income, minority, and other underserved or rural communities”

Which brings us to the second major cause of our financial crisis: The inability of minority-owned banks to lend to women-owned small businesses serving moderate-income rural communities of underserved veterans.

We probably should have warned you that this financial stuff can get pretty complicated.

Under the program, the federal government will purchase preferred stock in participating small community banks. Banks that don’t lend out the money to small businesses will be penalized by having to pay higher interest rates on the preferred stock, thereby incentivizing them to make loans regardless of the creditworthiness of the potential borrowers. This will ensure that small businesses that probably shouldn’t be getting credit can get credit.

You know, that sounds strangely familiar somehow.

The program is open to all small businesses, which is critical as 4% of small businesses now cite access to credit as their single most important problem, tying it for seventh among the top problems they face, far behind poor sales, taxes, and government regulations.

And it’s not like the Obama administration can do anything about any of those.

Besides, if it doesn’t work we can always try the caulk thing.  



September 16, 2010 at 04:21 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 15, 2010

Don’t Make Karl Rove Angry. You Wouldn’t Like Him When He’s Angry

Establishment Republicans are quite put out that their preferred candidate, Mike Castle, was beaten by Christine O’Donnell, the candidate broadly supported by tea party advocates in the GOP Senatorial primary in Delaware. 

It’s no wonder that they’re a bit surprised Castle lost.  Just look at the guy’s background:

A former Deputy Attorney General, state legislator, Lieutenant Governor and two-term Governor of Delaware, Mike Castle is currently serving a record ninth term as Delaware's lone Member in the House of Representatives.

Isn’t that what the tea party movement is all about?  Ensuring incumbent politicians spend most of their adult lives in elective office?  How else do we expect our leaders to lose touch with the people they are representing if we don’t keep them cloistered in the halls of power for decades on end, separated from the daily worries and concerns of regular people?

Appearing on Hannity last night, 100% independent Fox News analyst Karl Rove was particularly upset, which had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that last year he patiently tried to explain to tea party activists why they should support a lifelong politician like Mike Castle which is probably why he didn’t think it was important to mention.

For whatever reason, voters decided against listening to their betters within the Republican Party and instead recklessly nominated O’Donnell, someone who has never held public office before and probably isn’t even on a first-name basis with Mitch McConnell even though he’s been in the Senate for 25 years

Can’t these people follow simple directions? We love your enthusiasm and all but unless you start behaving the Republicans will never have the opportunity to take control of Congress and expand the use of earmarks.

And then there is the personal toll.  Mike Castle is now facing a dim future in which you won’t be paying his salary.  On the bright side, despite 45 years in public life, there are still quite a few elective offices in Delaware he hasn’t yet held.  For example, he has never been elected to the Wilmington City Council, or to the office of state Auditor of Accounts, never mind served as Cheswold Vice Mayor or as the Treasurer for the town of Leipsic.

So don’t you worry, we’re sure Mike will land on his feet just fine.

And next time, tea party activists, just do what you’re told, okay? 


September 15, 2010 at 01:30 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2010

My foot really hurt this morning so I looked down to see why. Unfortunately a tool box was lying right on it so I couldn’t see what was causing the pain. I guess I’ll never know now…

An article this morning in the Washington Post by Associated Press reporter Pete Yost had this startling headline:

"No answers as crime rates fall"

Police budgets have been cut, the economy is in trouble, and yet crime of all kinds continues to drop.

Yost, desperate for an answer, cast his net far and wide in order to find someone, anyone, who could help unravel the mystery:

It is “one of those welcome puzzles,” that “is forcing us to think more seriously under what conditions economic activity influences crime," observed Richard Rosenfeld, president of the American Society of Criminology and whose work on the role of guns in crime has mostly revolved around examining programs that attempt to confiscate them.

The Obama administration provided an additional $519 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grants to support state and local criminal justice partners, said US Attorney General Eric Holder, who believes the Second Amendment is a collective, not an individual right.

We still have to be wary that the economy "could come back to haunt us" because of lower budgets for police and youth crime prevention, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, who believes gun bans lead to lower crime.

Yost's extensive research suggested that perhaps people are home more often, or have fewer valuables to carry, or maybe it's the inflation rate. That sounds like a viable theory.  People are in less of a hurry to steal things because of stable prices.

Alas, as Yost says, "there are no neat answers." Despite utilizing his best reportorial skills, which apparently did not include using Google, he could not come up with a single alternative source offering a plausible well-researched explanation for the continuing downward trend in crime in the face of forces most would think should have lead the opposite way. 

Maybe his Internet was out.


September 14, 2010 at 04:02 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack