Tag Archives: Big Government

Will Hurricane Maria provide the excuse for Congress to bail out Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico’s electric utility was already effectively bankrupt.  Now, most inconveniently, Hurricane Maria has knocked out power to the entire island.
We predict that that hurricane will provide the cover for Congress to provide a massive bailout—effectively leveraging the tragedy of Maria to cover for its previous woes too.
Perhaps it’s unseemly to discuss now at this time that calls for compassion.  But the hurricane could well provide, shall we say, a glaring silver lining for this island that will allow it to escape accountability for its decades of corruption and mismanagement.
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Win-win: How about creating that libertarian paradise in Barbuda?

Hurricane Irma destroyed Barbuda, forcing evacuation of the island’s 3,000 inhabitants.  Media reports suggest that it will cost around $250M to rebuild the tropical paradise.  The territory is, of course, part of the country of Antigua and Barbuda, which has a relatively high standard of living.

In lieu of focusing on seasteading, how about a bunch of rich libertarians get together and, though a market solution, try to purchase the island, rehabilitate it, and create a new sovereign state?

Maybe offer $500M to the government of Antigua and Barbuda to cover the costs of permanently accommodating former Barbuda residents on Antigua and to compensate them for the lost territory.  Given the country’s fiscal challenges, this could be a nice nest egg, covering about half of the annual government budget [PDF].  Add in the $250M to rebuild Barbuda.  (We have little doubt that enterprising, profit-motivated Americans could manage it cheaper.)

Offer, say, $100,000 to compensate each resident of Barbuda who chooses not to return.  If half of them take you up on it, that’s $150M.  (Better yet, determine the fair value of their private losses and compensate them; we doubt that it would be anything close to an order of magnitude higher than $100K on average.)  Invite those who decline the opportunity to return under the new system.  Budget $50M to build the hardware and software of a new (minimalist) national government.

So, for less than a billion dollars, we could possibly have a new state.  Peter Thiel alone could cover this.  The new owners could begin selling parcels of land, privatizing government-type services, and creating a true libertarian paradise.  It’s easy to envision them recouping their investment while creating a society that would soon become the richest per capita in the world.  Think of the prospects for tourism, retirement homes, and financial services alone.  The geography and weather (minus the occasional hurricane) are a good start.

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Top 10 side effects of Trump’s victory

The great news just keeps on rolling in after Tuesday.  Here are some great (and some not so great) side effects that we can look forward to:

10.  The Clinton Foundation will close up shop, since with no influence to peddle no one will donate to it.

9.  The media will try to build momentum to elect Hillary Clinton Speaker of the House for the sake of national unity (and since she won the popular vote, dontcha know).  President Trump and Vice President Pence will then have to avoid being in the same place for four years.

8.  We will never hear the name Alicia Machado again.  Or Sidney Blumenthal, Robbie Mook, or Jennifer Palmieri.  Or Huma Abedin (unless she ends up in the dock or in the pages of the Federal Register as having been granted a pardon).

7.  Ivanka Trump will be America’s first woman president, maybe around 2028 (while the left decries the Trumps for trying to create a dynasty).

6.  Democrats will move to abolish the electoral college.  Democrats will rediscover the majesty of the filibuster, the perniciousness of the presidential executive order, and the importance of checks and balances.

5.  Merrick Garland will resign his judgeship, join the Harvard Law School faculty, and become a bitter old man writing op-eds and appearing on MSNBC panels relentlessly attacking President Trump.  He may run for Senate and prove to be just as leftist as Elizabeth Warren.

4.  The bubble for firearm and ammunition company stocks will end (though the Soros-funded rioters may keep up demand under they peter out).

3.  Chelsea Clinton will run for office (the only way to prevent #10).  Kirsten Gillibrand will lose her status as liberal icon and be pressured to make way for Chelsea to take her seat.  Ditto for Richard Durbin once Michelle Obama decides that she’s entitled to a senate seat too.

2.  James Taranto will grudgingly have to retire his “we blame George W. Bush meme.”  Glenn Reynolds will happily have to retire his “TAXPROF ROUNDUP: The IRS Scandal, Day XXX” meme.  CBS will finally be able to cancel Madam Secretary, which was presumably created as an in-kind donation/hagiography to the Clinton campaign (every time you saw a promo for the show, you were supposed to think of Hillary Clinton).

1.  The Trump Organization will have to change its name back to the original German Trumpf to avoid any conflict of interest.

 

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Bill to allow Americans to sue Saudi Arabia for terrorism is against the rule of law (that it passed unanimously is a telltale sign)

It’s odd that we side with President Obama as he is facing the first veto override of his term.  Though the fact that the bill passed both the House and the Senate unanimously is a hint of its perniciousness.

The bill, called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), would allow citizens who can convince a jury that they were victimized by terrorism to sue governments that they believe contributed to the terrorist acts.  We agree with the high-minded reasons that both the Obama Administration and some of the Republicans’ best legal and foreign-policy minds put forth in illustrating the bill’s dangers:  it undermines sovereign immunity, could prompt retaliatory lawfare from other countries, and  could place Americans abroad at risk of being detained by countries where the divide between civil and criminal prosecution is not as clear as in America.

We also fret that—while we are not condoning our supposed allies like Saudi Arabia in creating the environment for and directly supporting attacks on the U.S.—subjecting more defendants to the whims of the U.S.’s tort system is not the definition of justice.  Supporters of the bill reflexively cry that “it’s not about the money,” but we’re sure that the tort bar doesn’t see it that way.

The lawsuit industry undermines the U.S. economy every day via “jackpot justice,” in which it’s not that hard to employ emotionally-charged arguments to convince juries that some faceless, deep-pocket foreign defendant should pay up.  The preponderance-of-the-evidence standard on such civil matters is a dangerous substitute to deal with complex issues that should be left to the international political process.

The bill, while not unconstitutional, violates the spirit of the American constitution’s visionary prohibition of Bills of Attainder and ex post facto laws.  JASTA strikes us as a ham-handed attempt to scapegoat for imprecise reasons a defined boogeyman after the fact—a a sophisticated form of mob rule that these constitutional provisions were designed to deter.

Most bills that pass Congress unanimously are trivial, with the only down-side being wasted legislative resources.  When they are not trivial, such laws almost always increase government and erode liberty, as the political class generally agrees on these values as opposed to their converses.  Unanimous laws generally fit the pattern of benefiting from emotional resonance—as in the case of JASTA—and being seen as having little down-side.*

JASTA is not trivial and carries significant down-sides, though it does fit the general pattern of feel-good unanimous legislation and all of its ills.

*We would like to see a historian write a book on unanimously-passed legislation and the dissenters (like former Rep. Ron Paul (Tx.)) who have stood alone against them.  Such a work would certainly be filled with anecdotes that would educate and often amuse political junkies.

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Dallas police use of robot-deployed bomb is troubling

The media has rightly focused in recent days on the decision by the Dallas police to use a robot to blow up the black-power activist who murdered five police officers.  Although the sniper, Micah Johnson, ultimately got what he deserved, we are troubled by this use of technology.

Even if we shed no tears for the shooter in this case, it is not hard to envision a scenario where such a dystopian killing machine is abused (or, given the competence we generally expect from the government, malfunctions) in the future.  We are reminded of the exploding collars affixed to prisoners in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Running Man.

Steve Sailer makes the point that use of the robot was not much different than the typical police tactic of using a sniper to take out an active shooter, but, as other commenters point out—aside from the precedent and optics—the robot didn’t appear necessary in this circumstance.  The shooter was boxed in and not an immediate further threat to anyone.  Given the potential for collateral damage from a robot, it seems a bit draconian.

Even a sniper who has admitted guilt, as Johnson did in his “negotiations” with the police, is entitled to due process (though the Dallas police chief’s and media’s repeated description of Johnson as a “suspect” in recounting the events seems inaccurate—how about “perpetrator”?).  Police generally are charged with subduing and arresting a perpetrator unless killing him is necessary to prevent further loss of life.

Why couldn’t a robot be affixed with tear gas, a taser, or some other non-lethal disabling agent?

Incidentally, a Salon writer called this use of force a “frightening precedent.”  In a first, we agree with every word of the article (except for the reference to “the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” which we had never heard of and, given that it was brought to us by the United Nations, probably means the opposite of its title suggests).

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A reminder of how incompetently the government administers the “no fly list”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Me.) has introduced a “compromise” that would bar Americans who are on the government’s infamous “n0 fly list” from buying a gun while introducing a mechanism to appeal denial of a gun purchase.  How long would such an appeal take?

Such a proposal would be a gross violation of Americans’ constitutional rights.  The burden of proof should be on the government to deny someone’s fundamental rights, not the other way around.  What’s next, curtailing First, Fourth, or Fifth Amendment rights for people on the list?

A more practical matter is the sheer incompetence with which the government administers the list, along with other databases on which some guilty and some innocent Americans find themselves.  That is, the government is just as incompetent in this arena as in every other.  The list is secret, with no defined criteria for who puts an American on it or how to get taken off.  Plenty of horror stories abound that show how difficult it is for anyone to navigate the bureaucracy to challenge inclusion on such a list.  (Big-government advocates will retort that flying is not a constitutional or civil right.  That is hardly a reassuring rejoinder in a free country.)

Perhaps this could be a viable measure for foreign nationals, particularly those who don’t have a green card.  Collins notes that “most” of the people on the list are foreigners, but that is also not very reassuring in light of the opacity with which the government maintains the list.

Please, Republicans, don’t fall into the MSM/liberal trap of feeling pressured to “do something,” namely, to add yet another ineptly-run government program to try to remedy a litany of existing ineptly-run government programs.

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Be very suspicious of the left’s motives to allow “lateral entry” for military officers

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently unveiled a proposal to allow people to enter the military directly from outside at levels up to O-6 (colonel, or captain in the Navy) in potentially any job.  The plan, which is being considered by Congress, would expand this option from its current narrow parameters, which allow lateral entry up to the O-4 level (major, or lieutenant commander in the Navy) only for chaplains, lawyers, doctors, and dentists.

Secretary Carter uses the example of cyber specialists as a case where such a program would be most useful, as it’s difficult to develop officers with the level of expertise needed in-house.

This seems like a reasonable concept in principle, if applied selectively, and if it were intended solely to increase the effectiveness of the military (i.e., if conceived by Republicans).  It is an idea with merit and with major implications for both the military and civilian sectors.  It is worth careful consideration.

Color us skeptical, however, at the motives behind this under people like President Obama or Secretary Carter.  The author in the linked article says that the plan “suggests eroding the military’s tradition of growing its own leaders and cultivating a force with a distinct culture and tight social fabric.”

We have no doubt that “eroding” the armed forces’ “distinct culture and tight social fabric” is the whole point.  The left despises the military culture.  When Democrats are in power they enjoy conducting their transformative gambits on the military, be it redesigning training materials to be more politically correct, placing women in combat roles, forcing the forces to accept homosexuals, and next, naturally, removing the ban on “transgendered” warriors.  The left loves being able to play such games with the military, both because it is a perfect laboratory for their insane social engineering experiments—as a large population that has to follow orders and which collects lots of data—and because they see the military as a bastion of such abhorrent retrograde values as patriotism, meritocracy, and masculinity.

We assume that the left’s real motives in making such a sweeping change to the way that America grooms its military leaders are—in addition to making its culture more susceptible to their social-justice ideology—opening up a spigot by which they can corruptly appoint cronies to plum positions; installing moles who are loyal to them instead of to the chain of command (as is the norm in the federal civilian bureaucracy, in which an invisible, unaccountable band of dedicated leftists can always be counted on to drag their feet and stymie the attempted governance of any Republican administration); and, of course, fast-tracking affirmative-action hires to counter the perceived “diversity” problem in the upper officer ranks.

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