"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Friday, April 30, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green

The New York Times and most major news outlets are providing fresh reports that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is moving toward land and that the oil is leaking much faster than initial estimates.  What started as the tragic loss of eleven lives is threatening to become a much larger disaster.  In addition to maps showing the endangered bayous and marshes, the New York Times and others are reproducing pictures of the encroaching oil slick from Greenpeace, such as the one above.

According to their mission statement, "Greenpeace is the leading independent campaigning organization that uses peaceful direct action and creative communication to expose global environmental problems and to promote solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future."  In this unfolding environmental catastrophe, they are certainly holding up the first part of that mission, but what about promoting solutions?

After 9/11 and Katrina, people across the country eagerly rushed to lend a hand.  On blogs, people posted links to charities that were on site helping people and suggested other ways to get involved.  Companies held blood drives, food drives, and assembled care packages.  In the face of adversity, private citizens and organizations came together and demonstrated the real strength of America in the bonds of community and free association.

Looking at Greenpeace's news releases, blog pages, and action center, there don't appear to be any suggestions of things that people can actually do to help.  According to Wikipedia, Greenpeace has more than 2.8 million members around the world.  Aside from sending emails to politicians demanding an end to offshore drilling, what is the world's premier environmental activism organization doing to actually help the environment when it is needed most?  The answer, sadly, is nothing.

However, there are ways you can help!  CNN reports that there are conservation organizations that are seeking volunteers and donations to begin the cleanup efforts.  The Audubon SocietyAlabama Coastal FoundationMobile Bay National Estuary ProgramMobile Baykeeper, Save Our Seabirds, Oiled Wildlife Care Network, and the International Bird Rescue Research Center are all gearing up on the Gulf Coast to help birds and other animals that become fouled by the floating oil.  Unlike Greenpeace, these organizations can actually make a difference.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Don't Get Cross With Me

The Washington Post reports today that the Supreme Court has reversed an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit which banned the display of a cross on federal lands in the Mohave Desert.  As the Post reported at the time of the earlier ruling, the Ninth Circuit had held that any effort to remedy the situation by the government would effectively constitute an endorsement of religion.
Congress declared the site a national memorial, and proposed to cure any constitutional problems by transferring one acre on which the cross stands to the VFW in exchange for five acres owned elsewhere in the preserve by the Sandozes.

But Buono and the ACLU went to court again, and the courts agreed that such a plan would not resolve the constitutionality question. The deal "would leave a little donut hole of land with a cross in the midst of a vast federal preserve," the appeals court said.
The picture above shows the state funeral of Ronald Reagan which was held at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in Washington, D.C., which is also known as the National Cathedral.  By the logic of the Ninth Circuit and the liberal dissenters led by Justice Stevens, this funeral should have never taken place.  As the Washingtonian Magazine reported on the cathedral's 100th anniversary:
...In 1893, largely as a result of efforts by civic leaders such as Riggs Bank president Charles Glover, Congress granted a charter to the Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation to establish a cathedral "for the promotion of religion and education and charity." President Benjamin Harrison signed the charter into law.

...The first activity on the new land was the raising of a Peace Cross to mark the end of the Spanish-American War. The cross stands south-southwest of the cathedral, across from St. Alban’s parish church.
Fortunately for us, the ACLU was not around when the National Cathedral was being planned.  The cathedral is visible for miles around in the D.C. area and, to quote Steven's dissent, stands as a "continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message."  After all, it is clearly a Christian church right in the middle of our nation's capital!

However, if you look closely at the picture, you can see that several Muslim heads of state were in attendance at the funeral, wearing their distinctive kūfiyyāt.  Ironically, the Muslims pictured are more tolerant of a Christian funeral ceremony held in an Episcopal church than the only Protestant on the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cornhusker Kickback, Part II?

The Associated Press reports today that Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska is making Majority Leader Harry Reid pay a steep price every time the Senate holds a big vote.  This time, it's the financial reform bill.
Nelson voted with Republicans on Monday to deny Democrats the 60 votes they needed to advance the legislation to a floor debate.  Democrats were expected to try again Tuesday, and yet again the day after if necessary.

In a statement, Nelson, a conservative Nebraska Democrat, said his vote reflected concerns about the bill raised by Nebraska businessmen.  Before the vote, Nelson huddled with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd to discuss a regulatory item of interest to one Nebraska businessman in particular--billionaire investor Warren Buffett.
We all remember the so-called "Cornhusker Kickback" from the health care reform bill.  In return for his vote, Nelson extracted a promise that Nebraska would not have to pay for any increases in Medicare payments, but the promise was worthless as soon as the deal was made public.  That provision was eliminated in the bill of "fixes" which was passed by the Senate in response to popular outrage.

This time, Nelson is seeking an exemption from new financial derivatives rules that, among other things, would sharply limit the amount of "leverage" that firms can apply to derivatives trades by requiring that all derivatives be guaranteed with real assets.  This would be especially disastrous for Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway corporation, which owns a $5 billion stake in troubled investment bank Goldman Sachs.  The exemption would soften the blow by "grandfathering" existing derviatives.

Senator Nelson isn't up for re-election until 2012, but one has to wonder whether Nebraskans will support him.  On one hand, he can argue that he fought to get a good deal for Nebraska.  Other Senators are surely jealous of Nelson's ability to extract such huge benefits for his home state.  On the other hand, he has shown himself to be not only a dupe, but a craven and corrupt one.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Looney Tunes

Crazy Islamic radicals are in the news again.  Last Thursday's New York Times reports that the Comedy Central television network heavily censored a recent episode of the satirical cartoon show, "South Park" in response to death threats issued by a radical Muslim group in New York.  Worst of all, as Parker and Stone wrote:
In the 14 years we've been doing South Park we have never done a show that we couldn't stand behind.  We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode.  It wasn't some meta-joke on our part.  Comedy Central added the bleeps.  In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear.  It didn't mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too.
Parker and Stone have never been afraid to make lewd jokes and poke fun at historical figures in the past, but as the Times reports, they nevertheless took special care not to actually depict Muhammad, while at the same time making light of the Muslim prohibition of his depiction.
Cognizant that Islam forbids the depiction of its holiest prophet, Mr. Stone and Mr. Parker showed their “South Park” characters agonizing over how to bring Muhammad to their fictional Colorado town.  At first the character said to be Muhammad is confined to a U-Haul trailer, and is heard speaking but is not shown.  Later in the episode the character is let out of the trailer, dressed in a bear costume.
Apparently, Comedy Central doesn't get the joke.  As the Associated Press reported in 2007, Gillian Gibbons, a British teacher, was almost sentenced to death by the Sudanese government for similar reasons.  "Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied Friday in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear Muhammad."  Fortunately, Gibbons was later released.

As a private entity, Comedy Central is free to air or not air whatever it wishes.  The First Amendment does not compel anyone to give a platform to speech but rather only prevents the government from restricting the right of individuals to speak or not speak as they see fit.  However, in this case it seems disingenuous for Comedy Central to censor the non-depiction of Muhammad while at the same time allowing Parker and Stone a free hand in all manner of lewdness and vulgarity.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Guest Post

Today's special Friday guest post for the good folks over at the American Principles Project is about the Supreme Court nomination process, and whether or not Republicans can influence President Obama's choice.  Check it out!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hug a Planet

Happy Earth Day!  In all seriousness though, environmentalism has moved far beyond reasonable scientific arguments and has become something of a religion.  In order to maintain an energized base of activists, the movement now seeks radical changes to the way we live our lives, but unfortunately, environment-worship is no longer as far out on the fringe as the druids pictured above.  As the Washington Post reports, today will be marked with festivals and gatherings, complete with corporate sponsorships.
The [original] organizers wanted it to be one-time event, but it has become an annual, global celebration. The first one cost about $122,000 to put on; today, the Earth Day Network, which oversees Earth Day worldwide, boasts an $8.5 million budget and a long roster of corporate sponsors, including Underwriters Laboratories, Siemens, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, AT&T Mobile and Procter & Gamble.
As the Post observes, the environmentalist movement was initially a response to the very real problem of uncontrolled pollution which led to urban smog, acid rain, and poisoned rivers.  Nobody can deny that by placing strict limits on pollution we have made the world better for ourselves.  Compare old photos of the dingy and blackened skies of a 19th century cityscape to the clear blue skies of today and the difference is remarkable.

However, the environmental movement has moved beyond logical arguments for the protection of nature to a post-modern rejection of all human activity whatsoever.  Once venerable groups such as the Sierra Club now advocate for reduction of the human population.  The Earth Day Network provides a helpful list of personal sacrifices you can make to help the planet: "turn off unneeded lights," "drive less," "avoid using air conditioners," and so on, finally leading up to the ultimate summation of the eco-nihilist worldview, "be a minimalist."

Nature should be admired, enjoyed, and protected, and there are many real problems that demand action.  However, the environmental movement has become counterproductive by embracing a quasi-religious and pseudo-scientific belief system.  As we have seen with the climate email scandal, adherents of this belief system have gravely injured the credibility of science as a whole so that even sound arguments will now face tougher scrutiny and fiercer opposition.  In short, the environmentalist culture of self-sacrifice has also become one of self-destruction.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Health Care Hangover

Democrats are eager to "pivot" away from the political hangover of health care reform and instead sieze on public anger about the economy.  The Washington Post reports that Democrats in the Senate have passed a major milestone, winning committee approval of language that would implement a massive new regulatory scheme for the derivatives market.

However, the article doesn't mention which kind of derivative is actually related to the financial upheaval of the past several years--namely, credit default swaps.  The credit default swap is a type of derivative which was created by the large investment banks as a hedge on the supposedly "riskless" collateralized debt obligations--especially those consisting of mortgage-backed securities.

Meanwhile, a little-noticed Congressional Budget Office report was released back in January revealed that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are predicted to cost taxpayers nearly $400 billion over the next decade.
In its August 2009 baseline, CBO projected that the operations of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would have a total budgetary cost of $389 billion between 2009 and 2019.  (That cost includes subsidies for assistance to homeowners under the Administration’s Making Home Affordable plan.)  The bulk of the outlays ($291 billion) were estimated to occur in 2009.  That figure reflects the recognition of substantial losses on the entire outstanding stock of mortgages held or guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac at that time.
The American people are angry and Democrats are more than happy to direct that anger at Wall Street.  Creating new regulations for the derivatives market will certainly punish Wall Street, but as their name implies, the derivatives were not at the root of the crisis.  Rather, the shocking loss in value of the underlying real assets--in this case, risky mortgages underwritten by Fannie and Freddie--caused the upheaval.

Instead of pandering to populist outrage, the Washington Post should educate its readers about the real source of the problem and at the same time hold the politicians accountable for the policies which encouraged Fannie and Freddie to flood the market with so-called "toxic assets" in the first place.  Punishing Wall Street will only hurt the long-term growth potential of the American economy, and by failing to punish Fannie and Freddie, Democrats will only hurt the American taxpayer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Salt in the Wound

The Washington Post reports today on the latest example of the Obama Adminstration using a faceless and unaccountable bureaucracy to implement drastic changes that will affect the daily lives of all Americans.  In this newest instance of government mischief, unelected regulators will be deciding how much salt is allowed in the food we eat--all in the name of public health.
Officials have not determined the salt limits. In a complicated undertaking, the FDA would analyze the salt in spaghetti sauces, breads and thousands of other products that make up the $600 billion food and beverage market, sources said.  Working with food manufacturers, the government would set limits for salt in these categories, designed to gradually ratchet down sodium consumption.  The changes would be calibrated so that consumers barely notice the modification.
The Post goes on to report that President Obama's minions at the FDA "do not think they need additional authority from Congress" to implement this technocratic scheme.  This is a frightening assertion.  If bureaucrats believe they have the authority to decree limits on salt without any direction from Congress, what is to stop them from banning unhealthy foods outright?

Salt has been used as a preservative since ancient times to prevent meat from rotting.  Even today, common foods such as ham, bacon, salami, pepperoni, prosciutto, chorizo, sauerkraut, pickles, and beef jerky all require massive quantities of salt during the curing process.  Salt is also a key ingredient in cheese making, also as a preservative.  Presumably the FDA will allow an exemption in such cases, but why should we have to rely on the benevolence of a nameless committee to set limits on its own unchecked and unlimited power?

Moreover, because salt is a preservative, setting limits on the amount of salt in canned vegetables, sauces, and other processed foods, will either increase the likelihood of food contamination and spoilage or will force food manufacturers to rely more and more on a chemical soup of artificial preservatives.  The FDA claims that these regulations are in the public interest, but the unintended consequences of limiting salt in food could be far more disastrous than the supposed health problems associated with high salt intake.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Wasted Vote

The Washington Post reports that angry Democrats are collecting signatures in a petition drive to form a far-left party in opposition to centrist "Blue Dogs" who voted against ObamaCare.
Now, some of Obama's supporters are mounting a defiant strike against the president's party.  The nascent third party, North Carolina First, could endanger the Democratic congressional majority by siphoning votes from incumbent Democrats in November's midterm election, potentially enabling Republican challengers to pick up the seats.  Organizers say they are so fed up with Democrats who did not support health-care reform that they simply do not care.
Yesterday, the Post ran another article comparing the conservative and libertarian Tea Party movement to the independents and Republicans who supported Ross Perot in the disastrous election of 1992.
The Perot movement is an obvious starting point to try to understand the tea party movement.  Both movements began during times of economic distress and were built on growing distrust of, and even anger with, Washington and the federal government.  Each shook up the established political order, forcing the two major parties to adapt.  Many of the tea party activists are new to politics, as were many of those who supported Perot.
While third party candidates do occasionally win statewide office, such as Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, no third party candidate has ever won the Presidency.  Left-wing radicals, conservatives, libertarians, and even moderates all have good reasons to resent the current policies of the national parties, but forming breakaway third parties will not benefit their cause.

As the elder Bush famously said of Ross Perot, "A vote for him is a wasted vote."  Despite the pundits who cling to the intellectual conceit that a vote of conscience sends a message, the reverse is actually true.  By supporting a third party, voters inevitably aid the candidate who stands in opposition to their ideals.  Tea partiers and socialists alike would do well to remember this.

Friday, April 16, 2010

No Taxation Without Representation

The Washington Post reports today that D.C. voting rights are once again being considered in Congress.  Unfortunately, Democrats are trying to make this change the wrong way--that is, by enacting a law which can just as easily be repealed at any time instead of amending the Constitution.
A year ago, the Senate passed a D.C. voting rights bill for the first time since 1978, but lawmakers attached language that would wipe out most local gun laws and restrict the D.C. Council's power to enact new ones. House leaders shelved the legislation when it became clear that it would be difficult to block the gun amendment.

Under the measure, the House would add two members: one to the overwhelmingly Democratic District and the other, temporarily, to Republican-leaning Utah. That seat would then go to the state next in line for a representative based on the 2010 Census.
The Washington Post cites a poll showing overwhelming public support for this measure across the nation, so it is a mystery why Democrats cannot simply take the time to submit a constitutional amendment for the approval of the states.

Nathaniel Ward of the Heritage institute, and also a lifelong D.C. resident, has a much more in-depth analysis of why the Democrats' current approach is a bad idea, but the bottom line is that if Congress can give D.C. voting rights through a simple act of law, it can also take them away--something which the founders clearly would have opposed.
Lawmakers need to reconsider their proposal to grant the District of Columbia representation in Congress by legislation. The plan runs afoul of a commonsense understanding of the Constitution, the intentions of the Founders, and more than two centuries of interpretation by legislators and the courts. If they seek to allow congressional representation for District residents, they should instead examine proposals that do justice to principles of republican governance and the Constitution.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Who Pays Taxes?

Today is tax day, so it begs the questions, what does the average American owe the Federal Government?  Based on Census figures, the median household income is $52,029.  If the parents are married, both work, and they send two children to preschool or day-care, they would owe a grand total of...drumroll...nothing at all!  That's right!  With child and child-care tax credits, the total tax owed is exactly zero dollars and zero cents!

Your Government in Action, Part 6

As reported earlier this week, the Postal Service is in dire financial straits.  In order to save money, USPS has been selling prime real estate and moving to new locations which are smaller and less expensive to operate.  Unfortunately, the transition doesn't appear to be going very smoothly.  While driving around one day, I happened to notice this:

However, a quick check on USPS.com shows that this post office has become a phantom.  It's a sad state of affairs when the Postal Service doesn't even know where it's own offices are.  Note the address:

Your tax dollars at work!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Making the World Safe from Democracy

The BBC reports today that President Obama has secured a major agreement with diplomats from Iran and North Korea to halt all production of nuclear materials and surrender their existing stockpiles to the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Well, no.  Actually, Obama has secured agreements to save the world from the evil scourge of the Ukraine and Mexico.
Mexico will work with the US, Canada and the International Atomic Energy Agency to convert highly enriched uranium into lower-grade fuel, it said.  On Monday, the US welcomed a similar commitment by Ukraine.  President Barack Obama has warned world leaders of a growing risk of nuclear attack by terrorists.  He urged those attending the Washington summit not merely to talk, but to act to prevent nuclear material falling into the wrong hands.
Thus, Obama has succeeded not only in weakening the position of the United States against our enemies, but also in extracting painful concessions from our allies.  This ranks right up there with Obama's other top foreign policy achievements, although it is much more serious than the iPod which he sent to the Queen and certainly more damaging to our international standing than his fondness for bowing to kings and hugging dictators.

Despite Obama's preening, Iran and North Korea have been unmoved by this latest round of diplomatic theater and have only issued predictable statements condemning any effort by the United States to curtail their nuclear ambitions.  Only a fool would think we can intimidate the world's most opressive tyrants by demonstrating our own meekness, but Obama will stop at nothing to keep himself in the media spotlight.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your Government in Action, Part 5

The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Postal Service is "not viable," and that massive cuts are needed if it is to continue functioning:
The Postal Service should provide more lucrative incentive packages to potential retirees to try to accelerate attrition, auditors said.  They also recommended USPS consider outsourcing more delivery routes and mail services to contractors and seek concessions on wage and benefits from its labor unions during negotiations later this year.
On a related note, if you mail in your taxes, remember that you may have to pay extra postage.  Although the USPS increasingly relies on taxpayer subsidies for its very existence, the IRS provides a helpful tip as the government's way of saying thank you for your support:
Envelopes without enough postage will be returned to you by the post office.  Your envelope may need additional postage if it contains more than five pages or is oversized (for example, it is over 1⁄4" thick).
Your tax dollars at work!

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Media's Credibility Gap

Today, the New York Times asks the question, "Why is good news being received with such doubt?"  Like the boy who cried wolf, the Times and other mainstream media outlets have been gushing praises of President Obama's economic policies and looking for the silver lining in every new unemployment report.  Hilariously, in the very same article, Mr. Norris unintentionally gives us an example of this phenomenon.
The employment report for March, released a week ago, was a milestone that has been little noted.  The household survey, from which the unemployment rate is calculated, showed a gain during the first quarter of this year of 1.1 million jobs, the best performance since the spring of 2005.

True, the more widely reported numbers from the survey of employers are not as good.  But those numbers are subject to heavy revision as better data becomes available.  At the turning points for employment after the last two downturns, those numbers turned out to be far better than was reported at the time.
To hear the Times tell it, we should be optimistic because even though the unemployment numbers are still really bad, they will ultimately be revised by a few tenths of a point.  This must be very reassuring to the millions of unemployed Americans.  By repeating dubious assurances that recovery is just around the corner over the past year, the New York Times has earned a reputation as nothing more than a fatuous tool of the Obama Administration.  It is little wonder that the public remains skeptical.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In Case of Emergency: Blame Bush

The Washington Post reports today that the tragic mine disaster in West Virginia earlier this week could have been avoided.  Management repeatedly ignored government inspections which revealed major safety problems with the mine's ventilation systems.  This is a deplorable revelation which only increases the horror of the terrible loss of life.  However, near the end of the article, the Washington Post tries to place blame elsewhere.
Former federal officials and others who know mining said that [Bush administration mine safety administrator, David] Lauriski initially scaled back mine-safety regulation and that, under the Bush administration, 17 of 26 regulations proposed by the Clinton administration were dropped or withdrawn.

"Lax is not nearly a strong enough word to describe how mine safety was handled in the first part of the Bush administration," said Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America.  "It became a lot less about enforcing rules and regulations and more of a touchy-feely thing: It's bad what you are doing, and you need to do better."
Had it not already become a cliché long ago, we might be horrified that the Washington Post is using the suffering of others to score cheap political points.  Still, in this case it is rather surprising given that the government inspectors had done their jobs by issuing citations for the safety violations.  Only the most bitterly partisan liberal could hold the government responsible, and still more so George W. Bush as a private citizen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

You Can't Hug With Nuclear Arms

The Associated Press reports that President Obama has announced a grand new strategy which would, "lessen the role nuclear weapons play in America's defense planning."  This should not be terribly surprising, because Obama campaigned on an anti-nuclear platform, but upon closer inspection, his new policy is truly shocking.
Under the new plan, the U.S. promises not to use nuclear weapons against countries that don't have them.  The policy would not apply to states like North Korea and Iran, however, because of their refusal to cooperate with the international community on nonproliferation standards.
President Obama's idealism is nothing less than breathtaking.  The world has enjoyed more than 50 years of relative peace because we have the deterrent power of nuclear weapons.  The article observes that Obama is departing from the policies of his predecessor, but America's nuclear policy has been unchanged going back to Truman.  We have always held out the option to use nukes.

Consequently, only a few despots have been crazy enough to invade their neighbors, and although the United States has always responded to such incidents with conventional force, the threat of nuclear annihilation makes most world leaders think twice.  Moreover, many of our allies rely on the protection of the American "nuclear umbrella."  If Japan and Germany can no longer rely on our nuclear arsenal for protection, how long will it be before they start to build their own weapons?

America already has a credibility problem on the world stage.  After the fiasco of backing the wrong side in Honduras, encouraging Argentina to re-invade the Falklands, and publicly snubbing Israel's Prime Minister, one could be forgiven for thinking that it couldn't possibly get any worse.  President Obama thrives on making headlines, but he does so at the expense of American influence in world affairs.  More and more, the headlines are becoming a terrible joke.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Sticky Situation

Today's Washington Post reports that the United States Government, majority stakeholder in Chrysler and General Motors (or should we say Government Motors), will be seeking the maximum civil penalty against Toyota Motor Company for failing to inform regulators of the so-called "sticky pedal" defect.

"We now have proof that Toyota failed to live up to its legal obligations," LaHood said.  "Worse yet, they knowingly hid a dangerous defect for months from U.S. officials and did not take action to protect millions of drivers and their families.  For those reasons, we are seeking the maximum penalty possible under current laws."
As of six o'clock today, a quick Google search for the phrases "federal government" and "maximum civil penalty" and the word "Toyota" turned up more than 3,750 results.  Running the same search with "Chrysler" instead of "Toyota" returned only 52 unique results.  Running the same search with "General Motors" instead of "Toyota" returned only 33 unique results.  In the latter two cases, the results do not actually mention any time when the government has sought such penalties against the American automakers.

One has to wonder whether the government is playing favorites.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Don't You Feel Safer Now?

The Washington Post reports that the Transportation Security Agency will be implementing new airport security measures, not to strengthen what is already in place, but apparently as a response to criticism of the blanket screening of all passengers originating from the 14 countries which have known or suspected government ties to terrorism.
After the attempted bombing of an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight on Christmas Day, U.S. officials hastily decided that passengers from or traveling through 14 specified countries would be subjected to secondary searches.  Critics have since called the measures discriminatory and overly burdensome, and the administration has faced pressure to refine its approach.

Under the new system, screeners will stop passengers for additional security if they match certain pieces of known intelligence. The system will be "much more intel-based," a senior administration official said, "as opposed to blunt force."
This seems a little dubious.  Our intelligence services had been warned by no less than his own father that the Christmas Day underpants bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, had developed ties to a terrorist organization.  He had also recently traveled to Yemen.  Are we really supposed to believe that he would have been stopped if these new measures were in place in December?

The real problem here is not airport security.  If denied at airports, terrorists will attack elsewhere.  The battle against terrorism will be won or lost long before a terrorist reaches the security checkpoint.  Rather, everything depends on the quality of intelligence and our ability to act upon it.  In his rush to vilify the CIA for harsh interrogation tactics, President Obama has blunted our greatest weapon against terror.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Your Government in Action, Part 4

While searching for something else entirely, I came across this article from The Wall Street Journal about a $500,000 junket by several members of Congress to "study global warming" back in 2008:

It's tough to calculate the travel bills racked up by members of Congress, but one thing's for sure: They use a lot of airplanes.  In recent days, House of Representatives members allocated $550 million to upgrade the fleet of luxury Air Force jets used for trips like these -- even though the Defense Department says it doesn't need all the planes.
Your tax dollars at work!

Your Government in Action, Part 3

The Washington Post reports that millions of doses of swine flu vaccine will go unused:
Despite months of dire warnings and millions in taxpayer dollars, less than half of the 229 million doses of H1N1 vaccine the government bought to fight the pandemic have been administered -- leaving an estimated 71.5 million doses that must be discarded if they are not used before they expire.
Your tax dollars at work!