The Best-Ever Argument for Federalism

December 21, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Competition among the states as a check on the greed and foolishness of progressives, with Vermont as an example.

Originally posted on International Liberty:

I’m a big fan of federalism for both policy and political reasons.

Returning programs to the states is the best way of dealing with counterproductive income-redistribution policies such as welfare, Medicaid, and food stamps.

Federalism is also the right way of unwinding bad education schemes like Obama’s Common Core and Bush’s No Bureaucrat Left Behind.

And the same principle applies for transportation, natural disasters, and social issues such as drugs.

And I can’t resist pointing out, for the benefit of those who think such things matter, that federalism is also the system that is consistent with our Constitution’s restrictions on central government power.

Simply stated, federalism is good news because we get innovation, diversity, and experimentation. States that make wise choices will be role models for their peers. And it’s also worth noting that states that screw up will provide valuable…

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Recognizing Cuba: what do we get out of the deal?

December 19, 2014
"Pues, yo venci."

“Yo venci.”

It was announced a couple of days ago that the Obama administration had concluded months of secret negotiations (facilitated by Canada and the Vatican) leading to the diplomatic recognition of Communist Cuba. The deal includes the exchange of ambassadors; the humanitarian release of an American held unjustly in Cuba; an exchange of captured spies (three of theirs for one of ours); and the easing of some economic and financial restrictions. President Obama will also ask Congress to end the half-century old embargo against the neo-Stalinist island.

Now, to be clear, I’m not unshakably opposed to opening relations with Cuba. Few policies are etched in stone, and, as circumstances change, so should policy if it no longer serves American interests. And there are rational arguments to be made in favor of relaxation. For example, my friend Jazz Shaw is of the “it wasn’t working, so let’s try something else” school, while analyst Tom Nichols makes “The Conservative Case” for normalizing relations. (For cogent rebuttals, please read Andrew McCarthy and Fausta)

So, like I said, there are rational arguments on both sides of the matter.

But, look at it another way. Try looking at it like a good capitalist would and ask yourself “What’s in this for us?”

A deal like this is a transaction in which each party gives up something of value to get something it values. What you’re getting is (or should be) worth as much or more to you than what you gave up. Otherwise, why are you making the deal?

And that’s where I’m stumped; I can’t figure out what we got that’s worth anything like what we are giving away. Consider:

If the agreement is carried out, the US gives up:

  • Official recognition of the Castro regime
  • Permission to export to US markets, potentially worth billions
  • Access to US financial markets, see above
  • Lots of US tourists and the dollars they’ll bring

Cuba gives up:

  • An unjustly held American
  • A spy who had been working for us.

Cuba gets:

  • See what the US gives up, and remember this will probably strengthen and shore up the regime, since all those dollars have to flow through them, first.

The USA gets:

  • ???

In other words,”What, exactly?” American recognition and the end of the embargo is of incredible value to Cuba’s struggling totalitarian regime, possibly guaranteeing its survival for decades to come. Is giving all that up worth what amounts to an ornament for Obama’s legacy? I don’t think we’re getting a good deal for our side.

Jazz and others argue that times have changed and that Obama was right to change policies from something that wasn’t working.

My argument is that since the policy (embargo and non-recognition) was not significantly harming us; since lifting it probably won’t measurably help the Cuban people (what incentive to liberalize do the Castros have now?), but does reinforce the idea that we will bargain for hostages; and since we aren’t getting anything of equal or greater value, why not keep the policy in place? It isn’t as if we’re talking about China or Russia, where other factors would outweigh our outrage at their barbaric record on political and economic liberty. American recognition and trade is an incredibly valuable asset worth far more than what Cuba offers (even if they do make great cigars); the Castros need us far more than we need them. If they want it, let them give us something big. Here’s what I would ask for at a minimum:

  • The release of all political prisoners
  • An end to media censorship
  • Tolerance for and free participation by opposition political parties
  • Religious liberty

I suspect the Fidel and Raul would turn down my offer.

The making of bad deals, however, is a trademark of the Obama administration. Senator Rubio (R-Fl), who’s livid over the agreement, puts it succinctly:

“I think the people of Cuba have a right, if they are free, to choose any economic system they want. Nothing the president will announce today will further that goal. It is ironic a week after he imposed sanctions on human rights violators in Venezuela, we are lifting sanctions on the government that has taught the Venezuelans how to commit these human rights violations,” Rubio continued. “It’s absurd, and it’s part of long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established.”

“It’s par for the course and administration possibly giving away unilateral concessions for Iran or Cuba in exchange for nothing,” said the Florida senator. “His foreign policy is, at a minimum, naive, and perhaps truly counterproductive to the future of democracy in the region.”

Barack Obama is the worst negotiator that we’ve had as president since at least Jimmy Carter, and maybe in the modern history of this country,” Rubio concluded.

Yes. Yes he is. Rubio could also have mentioned the bizarre trade of five vicious Taliban warlords in return for one alleged deserter, Bowe Bergdahl.

The question is, why? Why make a deal with Cuban oligarchs that gives away the store in return for bupkis? Aside from Obama’s general leftist affinity for Socialist tyrannies and aside from political changes in the younger generation of Cuban-Americans that leads then to care less and less about the issue, I have another sneaking suspicion. Way back in the 60s and 70s, the leadership of the Weather Underground were great fans of the Cuban revolution and, especially, of Che Guevara. One of those leaders was Bill Ayers, who became a professor at the University of Chicago and then became close with one Barack Obama.

And now, years later, President Obama showers gifts on Cuba.

Just sayin’…

RELATED READING: The Diplomad: “The Castros pull it off again.” Elliott Abrams: The triumph of ideology over US national interests. McCarthy: Rewarding Castro in return for nothing. Rubio: Not so fast with that embassy construction, bud. Sean Davis: Free trade with Cuba is a fantasy. Mike Gonzalez: Obama didn’t tell the whole story about Cuba. Legal Insurrection: Is this the opening of Rubio’s campaign for president?

UPDATE: Reader SteveInTN links to an analysis at Stratfor suggesting major problems for Venezuela arising from this deal. One can only hope.


(Video) The Top Five Liberal Lies of the Year

December 19, 2014

A bit of morning entertainment from Media Research Center:

I’m sure there were other competitors, but most of those I can think of are from earlier years. (“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” etc.)

What would be your choices for the biggest progressive whoppers of 2014?


New Study: Two Thousand Years of Northern European Summer Temperatures Show a Downward Trend

December 18, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Bad news for the Warmist cult: Empirical evidence shows not only a millennia-long cooling trend, but that prior warming periods were warmer than the late-20th century peaks. Darn those “inconvenient truths.”

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

In a paper published in the Journal of Quaternary Science, Esper et al. (2014) write that tree-ring chronologies of maximum latewood density (MXD) “are most suitable to reconstruct annually resolved summer temperature variations of the late Holocene.” And working with what they call “the world’s two longest MXD-based climate reconstructions” – those of Melvin et al. (2013) and Esper et al. (2012) – they combined portions of each to produce a new-and-improved summer temperature history for northern Europe that stretches all the way “from 17 BC to the present.” And what did they thereby learn?

As the international team of researchers from the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Sweden and Switzerland describes it, this history depicts “a long-term cooling trend of -0.30°C per 1,000 years over the Common Era in northern Europe” (see figure below). Most important of all, however, they note that their temperature reconstruction…

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Federal court declares Obama immigration “action” unconstitutional

December 16, 2014
The President who would be King

The President who would be King

Shots fired:

Earlier Tuesday, a federal court in Pennsylvania declared aspects of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration policy unconstitutional.

According to the opinion by Judge Arthur Schwab, the president’s policy goes “beyond prosecutorial discretion” in that it provides a relatively rigid framework for considering applications for deferred action, thus obviating any meaningful case-by-case determination as prosecutorial discretion requires, and provides substantive rights to applicable individuals. As a consequence, Schwab concluded, the action exceeds the scope of executive authority.

This is the first judicial opinion to address Obama’s decision to expand deferred action for some individuals unlawfully present in the United States. [I’ve now posted the opinion here.]

Read the rest of Jonathan Adler’s article for the background to the case. It seems the judge didn’t have to consider the constitutional question to reach a decision in the case, but…. he went there. If this goes all the way to the Supreme Court (and I don’t see why it wouldn’t, but I’m not a lawyer), I wouldn’t bet on Obama getting an easy win; his administration has been slapped down by the Court on 9-0 votes several times — in other words, including his liberal appointees Kagan and Sotomayor.

Between this, the lawsuit of brought by 17 (now 24) states against the action, and the pending crucial Obamacare case, the Supreme Court’s end-of-term announcements of its decisions should be very interesting. Be sure to stock up on extra popcorn.

smiley popcorn

 


The Case Against the IRS and the “Progressive” Income Tax

December 16, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

Tax reform along the lines of some sort of flat tax or a national sales tax, along with reduction in the size of government, would go a long way towards generating prosperity here again. It would also make statist heads explode — a win-win situation!

Originally posted on International Liberty:

Genuine tax reform would be the second-best fiscal policy reform to boost economic growth.*

With a simple and fair tax system, we could get rid of high tax rates that penalize productive behavior. We could eliminate the double taxation that discourages saving and investment. And we could wipe out the rat’s nest of deductions, credits, exemptions, preferences, exclusions, and other loopholes that bribe people into making economically unwise decisions.

When pushing for tax reform, I normally cite the flat tax, but there are many roads that lead to Rome. I’ve also pointed out that other tax reform plans have similar attributes. Here’s what I wrote, for instance, when comparing the flat tax and national sales tax.

In simple terms, a national sales tax (such as the Fair Tax) is like a flat tax but with a different collection point.the two plans are different…

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#TortureReport: I look forward to the Republican report of how much Democrats knew

December 15, 2014
What did she know?

What did she know?

Setting aside for a moment the questions of what constitutes “torture,” when are harsh methods justified in interrogation, and the effectiveness of such methods, one of the most galling aspects of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s majority report is its raging hypocrisy. Feigning a shock and outrage that would make even Captain Reynault blush with shame, Senate Democrats lead by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) loudly denounced the CIA (and by extension the Bush administration) for employing tactics that amounted to torture.

Funny how they’re outraged now, when they’ve known for years:

Jose Rodriguez, the CIA’s point man for counterterrorism between 2002 and 2004, told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday that Democratic lawmakers now accusing the CIA of keeping Congress in the dark on some interrogation methods “knew exactly what we were doing.”

“I remember very clearly briefing [California Democrat] Nancy Pelosi in September of 2002,” he said, claiming he “briefed her specifically on the enhanced-interrogation techniques of Abu Zubayda. So she knew, back in September of 2002, every one of our enhanced interrogation techniques.”

“These people were fully aware of all of the techniques that were given to us and approved by the Office of Legal Counsel at Justice,” Rodriguez continued, saying that neither Nancy Pelosi nor other Democrats — with the exception of then–California congresswoman Jane Harman — “ever objected to the techniques at all.”

Senators knew, too; the article mentions Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) in particular. But I’d like to know just how much Senator Feinstein knew and when she knew it. She’s been on the intelligence committee for years and was surely briefed. But it’s only now, with Democrats soon to lose control of the Senate and Feinstein her chairmanship of the committee, that she decides to rush out this hack-job of a report. I’ll repeat what I wrote in 2009, when Nancy Pelosi was the one screaming over harsh interrogation methods:

You want a truth commission, Mrs. Pelosi? Fine. Bring it on. Let’s have that full-throated discussion of “harsh” interrogation of terrorists who believe they’re doing Allah’s work when they carve off heads or fly planes into buildings and who’d dearly love to set off a nuclear weapon in the US. Let’s clear away the cobwebs of convenient amnesia to let the world know just how much you and your party members supported those same techniques, funding them year after year and even wondering why we weren’t doing more. Let’s bring out all the details of how those techniques saved Americans from horrible deaths and find out what the American people support: a government that recognizes that its highest, first duty is to protect and defend its citizens, or one willing to gut its intelligence service and put the people at risk, all in the name of a preening sanctimony that’s nothing more than a cover for a partisan hack job.

So, let’s have that truth commission, Speaker Pelosi. Just remember, truth hurts.

Let’s see if they can handle the truth.

RELATED: For a much more sensible critique of the interrogation program, read counterintelligence specialist John Schindler’s post “CIA Torture: An Insider’s View.”


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