Sunday, May 31, 2009

Judge Sonia Sotomayor

If you have been following the major news outlets this week (Fox News included), you know a few things about the judge President Obama has nominated for the Supreme Court:

  1. She is a She.
  2. She is Hispanic.
  3. Republicans had better watch out if they question anything about her.

Republicans have tripped over themselves saying they will not criticize her based on her sex or ethnic background. I believe there are a few good reasons to deny Judge Sotomayor the highest court in the land. Lady Justice is supposed to be blind. If my criticisms would be valid against a white Republican, then they are valid against Sonia Sotomayor.

Her previous decisions do raise some real question marks, specifically her decision in Ricci v. DeStefano. The city of New Haven, Connecticut uses an exam to qualify firefighters for promotions. This test is examined ahead of time to make sure it is "race neutral" and it is administered due to an agreement between the city and the union. Traditionally, firefighters who pass the examine are promoted. On one specific occasion, 16 white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter passed the exam. They were not promoted because no black firefighters passed the test. The city decided they wouldn't promote anyone if there were no successful black applicants. The firefighters sued believing they had been the victims of racism. The lower court dismissed the case, and Judge Sotomayor heard it as an appeals judge and agreed with the lower court. In the coming weeks you will hear more about this case for three reasons: the appeal of the case is going to be decided by the Supreme Court in June; the decision, coupled with other comments by Sotomayor, does not pain a flattering picture of the Judge; and another Hispanic Judge, Jose Cabranes, wrote an opinion questioning Sotomayor's decision.

She has made some very questionable remarks, in public and on the record, regarding her judicial philosophy. This is important because her comments are fair game in confirmation hearings. She shouldn't be asked how she will decide on gay marriage, abortion, or school prayer, but she can be asked what she meant when she said, "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." President Obama and Secretary Gibbs have both tried to clarify these remarks.

Perhaps even more troubling are her remarks in 2005 stating that policy is made at the appeals court. Policy and law are not made in court. State and Federal Legislators make law, not judges. Judges interpret that law. They decide what is and what isn't out of bounds. They don't decide where that foul line is.

Republicans should challenge Judge Sotomayor on these points, and others that may come out over the next few weeks. Democrats and the Media would do well to look over these issues as well. Perhaps they should stop telling Republicans what is fair criticism, and look at Judge Sotomayor's record.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Why Do We Have CAFE Standards?

Last week President Obama had a major press conference to announce a proposed new national fuel economy standard for vehicles. This new standard will average out to around 35 miles per gallon. This new standard implements some policies from the Bush administration years ahead of their original target date and creates a national corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE, standard.

CAFE standards started in the late 70’s and were specifically targeted at passenger cars. At the time they were created to lessen our use of foreign oil. They have failed miserably with this goal. According to the Heritage Foundation, the US has increased its foreign oil consumption from 32 percent to 52 percent of oil used since the standards were adopted. The new time lines announced last week will affect the 2016 model year cars. These standards will require that all of a particular class of vehicles sold by any manufacture average out to meet the target miles per gallon. The footprint of the vehicle is the best way to think of the different classes. If Ford sales 1,000 cars in a certain footprint, those 1000 vehicles must average out to have the target fuel efficiency. If Ford sales a lot of cars with lower efficiency, then the other cars must have a much higher efficiency in order for the 1000 vehicles to average out to the required mandate.

There are trade offs to higher fuel economy. According to the Obama administration, the new national standards may add around $1300 to the purchase price of your vehicle. This is only an estimate, and some groups claim the real price is higher. There is also only so much fuel economy you can get from an engine. The rest has to made up by making the car lighter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has expressed concerns that the lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles result in more fatalities every year. CAFE standards have resulted in an estimated 1,300 to 3,900 deaths per year, depending on the year and the source. Some environmentalists would argue that these deaths are acceptable if we lower the amount of pollutants discharged each year to help solve global warming. The truth is that CAFE standards won’t solve global warming. The next time you drive to work and see a convoy of tractor trailer trucks, or pass a construction site, remember those vehicles are exempted from CAFE standards due to their size. The CAFE mandate also argues against itself. The theory is that more fuel efficient vehicles reduce our need for oil and gas. In reality, fuel efficient vehicles make driving cheaper. Cheaper driving means more vacations, more car trips, and more gas used.

Personally I don’t think the government should be telling auto makers what fuel efficiency their vehicles must achieve. The government doesn't mandate XM radio (yet), why fuel efficiency? President Obama has never run a business, and I don’t believe there are any automotive engineers in Congress. The government should try to address other problems. Perhaps after the economy is fixed, the nuclear problems of Iran and North Korea are resolved, and terrorist stop trying to kill us I will change my mind. Until then, I think the government needs to keep its eyes on the ball, and stop worrying about whether my car gets 20, 30, or 40 miles per gallon.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quick Notes: Political Friends.

I wanted to post a quick update on what is going on and to apologize for not answering comments this weekend. Work has been a little busy this weekend so it has eaten into my blogging time. I spent 19 hours at work yesterday for example. In addition to that, I chose to simply ignore this blog over the last couple of days. Go figure.

There have been some good comments (both for and against) my last two posts, and I want to give them the attention they deserve. I hope to catch up on my responses tomorrow. This week, I want to write blogs on C.A.F.E. standards and on Minnesota's governor. Consider this your fair warning if you want to do your homework ahead of time.

I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend, and look for two new posts later this week!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Prager University

I attended the "Obama the First 100 Days" tonight featuring Bill Bennett, Dennis Prager, and Hugh Hewitt. There were a lot of interesting topics discussed, and I think I got a few ideas for future posts.

At the end of the night, Dennis Prager asked everyone to check out a new project of his called Prager University. It's on You Tube. I looked at it when I got home and was impressed with the first course. I don't typically listen to Prager, but I still found this very interesting. The clip is five minutes long, and I am keeping this post short so you will have time to watch it. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Book Review: The 5000 Year Leap

Quite possibly the best book I have ever read on the U. S. Constitution and what the Founders intended.

If I could only write one sentence about The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World by W. Cleon Skousen, that would be it. If I could add a second sentence, it would be, "The book is easy to understand and is intended as a High School text book." If you are looking for an easy to read book on the Constitution, this is it.

The 5000 Year Leap was written because Mr. Skousen wanted a book that, "…catalogue[d] the ingredients of the Founding Fathers phenomenal success formula so it would be less complex and easier to digest." This combined with recognition of mistakes elected representatives were making inspired the book. It is written as a high school text book, and does a very good job of explaining the fundamentals of our government. Mr. Skousen came up with 28 principles that represented what the Founders were trying to accomplish.

Mr. Skousen shows a deep understanding of the Constitution. For example, under the chapter The 17th Principle: Checks and Balances, there is a complete list of checks and balances found in the U.S. Constitution. There are 18 of them.

The book does not specifically attack one party or another. I am not sure the Republican or Democratic Parties are mentioned at all in this book. Right and Left are mentioned, but not in the concept of Conservatism vs. Liberalism. Mr. Skousen uses these terms as he claims the founders would have understood them. According the political theory at the time of the Constitution, government ranged from the "left" or complete tyranny imposed by a monarchy to the "right" or absolute anarchy with no government at all. The founders intention was to get the United States government in the exact center of this political spectrum. Our founders thought of our government as a three headed eagle, with the Judiciary, the Legislative, and the Executive branches all being represented by one head of the eagle. In addition, one wing represented the "Problem Solving Wing" or what government could do with unlimited funds. The other wing represented "The Conservation Wing" or the wing responsible for making the best use of all funds available. If both these wings work together, the eagle flies straight and doesn't lean towards tyranny or anarchy.

The 5000 Year Leap quotes the founders extensively. If you read the book with an eye to today's politics, it is easy to see that our elected officials (Republican and Democratic alike) have either forgotten the lessons listed here, or never knew them. Some of the chapters may cause you to question your own political beliefs and what you have thought of the U.S. Constitution. If you don't believe Mr. Skousen, it is easy to follow his footnotes to do your own homework and make your own decisions.

I would beg anyone with a high school age student to buy The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle That Changed the World and ask them to read it. Every voter should read this book before they head to the next ballot box. Every elected official should be forced to read this before being sworn into office. If you only buy one book that I review on this website, this is the book.


If you like this post, you may also like:

Book Review: Glenn Beck's Common Sense

The Repugnant Nature of the Minimum Wage

Of Government and Men: Introduction

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Godfather Obama and the UAW

This past week has shown us that President Obama will do anything to protect the UAW. The President is willing to break the law, strong arm banks with TARP money, and use the "…full force of the White House press corp…" to destroy any dissent. The President isn't interested in doing what is right, or what is legal, but what protects the UAW.

As Chrysler heads into Bankruptcy court, we should all pay attention. GM (commonly referred to now as Government Motors) is likely to head the same way, and we may see more TARP companies or banks go into bankruptcy before it's all over. Whatever happens to Chrysler is going to set precedent for future bailouts and bankruptcy's.

President Obama attempted to force a bankruptcy down the throats of Chrysler's creditors that violated contracts those creditors had in place. He hasn't given up on this and is actively working on it. Secured creditors loaned money to Chrysler with a contract that stated if Chrysler sold off its assets, these secured creditors would be paid back, dollar for dollar, before any other creditor is paid back. President Obama is attempting to violate this contract simply because it suits his political will. He believes these creditors should only get 28 cents for every dollar they loaned Chrysler. The UAW would get 55% of the entire company.

In a related story, you may have read that some of the banks that received TARP money want to pay it back to the Government. President Obama won't let them. Why? The stated reason is that these banks need to pass a "stress test" to prove they are sound enough that they don't need the money. This is way above and beyond simply bailing out banks. When last I looked, President Obama has no experience running a bank, or a company. Who is he to decide when a bank can or can't pay back the money? More importantly, this money isn't the President's money. The money loaned to these banks, and to the auto industry, is tax payer money. The President is suppose to be a steward of the tax payer's money. Right now, he is failing at that job. Instead of protecting the tax payer, President Obama is controling these banks so they won't object to his version of Chrysler's bankruptcy. Imagine if President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Karl Rove had cooked up a scheme like this...

Perhaps the most disturbing part of this entire story is the threat by President Obama to destroy Chrysler's creditors in the press if they don't submit to his will. This is the classic Chicago political move of "making them an offer they can't refuse". One creditor has gone on the record stating they were threatened by the White House. How many more creditor's have been threatened and are afraid of President Obama, Press Secretary Gibbs, and the Democratic PR machine? These thug style political manuevers got him elected in Chicago, and he is trying to use them to get what he wants now.

President Obama's tinkering with the auto industry threatens property and contract law in our nation. The precedent it starts is that if you have a contract, its only valid as long as the current President says so. This is not the way our government is allowed to operate under the U.S. Constitution.

There are a number of good articles covering this. I have provided links below to the most recent ones I have read.

The Big Business of Big Labor from the Washington Examiner

Chrysler Bankruptcy Exposes Dirty Politics from CBS News

An Offer You Can't Refuse by the Economist

If you think I am simply a crazy conservative, go read those three articles and see if you still think so.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Specter Defection

There has been a lot of commentary in the media over Senator Arlen Specters move from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. Many are portraying this as a wakeup call in some form or another. One of the best pieces I have read on Specter's move is by Noemie Emery of the Weekly Standard. Mrs. Emery uses Specter's defection as a call for more of a big tent in the Republican Party. I think she is right.

Mrs. Emery points out a fact that many voters on the right and the left forget: Conservatism is a movement and not a Party, while the Republican Party is not a movement. The goal of a movement is to advance a set of ideals. The goal of a political party is to get more people elected and to implement a political platform. Republicans need Conservatives to win national elections. Conservatives need Republicans (even the not so conservative version) in order to get their ideals acted on. As good as Mrs. Emery's article is, there are two points she and most commentators seem to be missing.

First, many elected Republicans have pushed the parties platform aside. Elected Republicans have forgotten the Contract with America, and have become as big government as their Democratic counterparts. Many voters who traditionally vote Republican are upset with that. To make matters worse, since the 2006 elections, the Republican party has had trouble convincing voters that they want to get back to the Party of the 90's, let alone Regan's big tent party of the 80's. Many Republicans talk about attacking new voters. But they phrase this in how they wish to change the party. Republicans should be looking at ways they can phrase their message or better communicate it to traditionally Democratic voters.

The other point that seems to get lost is why Specter changed parties. Mrs. Emery touches on it, but then forgets it. Arlen Specter was most likely going to lose his primary battle. He looked at the numbers, and in order to stay in the Senate, switched parties. He is very likely to get reelected as a Democrat. In my opinion, this speaks to a larger problem. Specter has been in politics since the 60's. He started his career as a Democrat, and switched to the Republican party after his first election. He has been in the Senate since 1981. He is approaching 30 years in the Senate. Mrs. Emery and other Republicans seem to think it is tragic that he would loose his primary. I think it would have been a good thing. Do we really need Senators in office for 30 years? One of our problems in the Congress is that these older Senators are more concerned with winning another term than they are with fulfilling their role as the outlined by the Constitution.

Specter's defection should be a wake up call for the Republican Party. I think Republicans needed to be doing some soul searching right now for a number of reasons. However, I believe Specters defection should call us all to examine a different issue: Term Limits in Congress and the Senate. Specter switched parties to stay in office. Do we really need any Representative or Senator in office for thirty years? I don't think so. If a President is term limited to two terms, why should a Senator (or Representative) be able to make a full career of sitting in the Senate or the House?