Monthly Archives: January 2011

ACLU Sues to Protect Gun Rights of .. Immigrants

In what can only be construed as a misguided interpretation of the 14th amendment, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit in North Dakota alleging that the State’s concealed handgun law is unconstitutional.

A U.K. citizen, living in the U.S. was denied a renewal for his concealed handgun permit due to a change in the State’s concealed carry laws.  Now, North Dakota requires that a person be a citizen in order to receive the permit.  According to a  FoxNews.com article, the ACLU is invoking a civil war amendment to open the door for persons of any immigration status to be able to carry a concealed weapon legally.

“That to us is a discrimination based upon alienage which would run against the 14th amendment’s prohibition against discrimination upon alienage,” Executive Director of ACLU of South Dakota Robert Doody told FoxNews.com”

The most basic problem with the suit is the position the ACLU is taking on Section 1 of the  14th amendment.  The 14th amendment to the Constitution was adopted in 1868 as part of a  trio that are called the “reconstruction amendments” or “civil war amendments”.  The three amendments were intended to reshape the country from a one of master and slave, to one of Americans.

Section 1

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws

Section one has three clauses: The first, or citizenship clause, protects the citizenship status of an American from infringement by the States.  The second insures due process and the last is the equal protection clause.

The only portions of the 14th amendment that could even vaguely apply are the due process and equal protection clauses.  Those clauses apply to “any person” not necessarily a citizen.  But what those clauses protect is only the right to due process and equal protection under the law.

The ACLU appears to believe that the due process clause prevents the State from depriving any person of liberty.  Therefor, any person living in the United States must be afforded the same liberties or be denied them only through due process.

Since North Dakota has offered its citizens the right to carry concealed weapons, the ACLU is arguing that all persons in North Dakota must therefor also be offered that liberty.  This is a very backwards interpretation of the clause.  What the clause was intended to do was make sure that when a State decided to deny a person of a liberty, it should only be done through due process.

Due process is certainly being applied in this case.  Due process does not guarantee that every person can do what every other can do.  If that were the case, parole’s could roam free, felons could have the right to own guns or vote, pedophiles could be allowed to live wherever they pleased.  Instead, each of those groups were stripped of the right through the due process of law.  Laws and regulations were enacted and once the status of each person was known through legal process, the statutes applied.

In this case, the alien status of the gun owner is not in question.  He is an established, permanent resident alien living in the United States.  North Dakota enacted a law that prevents anyone other than citizens from carrying concealed weapons.  This individual is being treated just like every other alien in North Dakota – no concealed weapons.

The ACLU could easily start the snowball down the hill that becomes a dangerous avalanche.  If this suit succeeds in the Supreme court, felons, spousal abusers, child abusers, and many other groups that were previously denied access to guns, explosives and other dangerous materials would now have precedent to sue for those freedoms.

The initial hearing is scheduled for January 27th.

I.R.S. Ombudsman to Congress: Tax Code is Too Complex

Tax system too complicatedMore than half of Americans know the pain and cost associated with preparing taxes every year.  Nina Olson, an ombudsman for the Internal Revenue Service, agrees.

The New York Times printed an article that summarized some of Ms. Olson’s comments to Congress in her annual report

Nina E. Olson, the national tax advocate who acts as an ombudsman for the I.R.S., issued a sweeping criticism of federal tax policy in her annual report to Congress. Ms. Olson found that the volume of the tax code had nearly tripled in size during the last decade — to 3.8 million words in February 2010 from 1.4 million in 2001. She estimated that Americans spent 6.1 billion hours preparing their returns each year — the equivalent of 3 million employees working full time.

That’s 6.1 Billion man/hours working to produce .. nothing.

Flat tax sympathizers like  FreedomWorks have been touting the need to simply our tax code for quit some time.  Here’s FreedomWorks’ Dick Armey to explain the idea.

Fair Tax ProposalAn alternative to the flat tax is the fair tax supported by fairtax.org. Either of these two plans would greatly reduce the complexity in our tax code, which is badly needed.  As the New York Times article demonstrates, the I.R.S.’s own internal watchdog agrees.

“The time for tax reform and tax simplification is now,” Ms. Olson said.

What may be a bigger surprise in the article is that the greedy wealthy corporate banker tycoon rich people that progressives have been complaining about, aren’t actually the biggest benefactor of our tax code – it’s the average working stiff.  The ombudsman’s report continues by saying:

“The dirty little secret is that the largest special interests are us — the vast majority of U.S. taxpayers,” the report said. “Virtually all of us benefit from certain exclusions from income, deductions from income or tax credits.”

The report makes an invalid presumption here.  Yes, almost all of us would pay more in taxes if there were no exclusions or deductions.  Lower-income earners would not have the earned income credit, child tax credit or many other tax provisions that help create our highly-progressive tax system.  Middle-income earners would not have the mortgage interest deduction, tax free retirement investments, exclusions of income used to pay for employer-based health care, etc.  High income families would lose tax shelters, deductions for charity.  Everyone would lose the dependent deduction and standard deductions.  Sure, we would all pay more if there were no deductions or exclusions.  That is not the same thing as saying we would all pay more under a flat or fair tax.

Under a flat tax system, there are no deductions.  It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, if you own a home or not or whether or not your employer pays for your health insurance.  You pay a certain percentage of the money you earn – period.  The difference is that the rates could be greatly reduced for everyone because more people would be paying taxes.

A CNN article lays out one problem with our tax system.

If tax year 2009, for which we are paying today, is anything like tax year 2008, then a record number of the nearly 142 million Americans who will file a tax return will get back every dollar that was withheld from their paychecks during the year.

That’s almost half of all working-age Americans that can vote, but pay ZERO taxes.  Even if actual tax rate was 5%, thet would be more than 150 Million taxpayers now actually paying taxes.  So even without deductions and exclusions, more money would flow into the coffers of the treasury with most taxpayers paying the same taxes.  The difference is that no one spent much of their time to hide, deduct, exclude, record, document and report their income while trying to understand all 3.8 Million words of the tax code.

The report also considers the increasingly complex job the I.R.S. is going to have to perform thanks to Health Care Reform turning them into enforcers of the insurance mandate.  The changes in how the I.R.S. will certainly be more expensive than the C.B.O. estimated.  Then again, the C.B.O. has underestimated the costs of just about everything that it estimated in the last two years – especially where health care reform was concerned.

Our tax system is overly-complex, incredibly expensive and has now become unmanageable.  This year, the I.R.S. had to move the tax deadline back three days just to deal with the fact that nothing was changing in the existing income tax code.  That’s right, because the income tax schedule will continue just like it was from 2010, they needed more time.

The I.R.S. is a bloated and unnecessarily over-manned government institution.  Not since 1986 has the tax code had a major revision.  Nina Olson has it right:  Congress, shrink the tax code.. now.

Why Conservative Legislators Must Keep Obamacare Repeal in the Media

Conservative law makers are continuing to talk up the repeal or replacement of Unfordable Patient Rationing of Care Act of 2010 (artistic license claimed).  Liberal law makers are doing everything they can to make it a negative against the right-leaning legislators.

John Boehner may very well lead the House to a near veto-proof vote to repeal Obamacare.  The Senate, under a slight Democrat majority, will be a tighter vote.  It would seem that the repeal of the most expensive, under-funded progressive mandate in history will be difficult at best, so why pursue it?

Conservatives were promised an up-or-down vote

John Boehner and the GOP-led House are living up to a campaign promise – a concept foreign to liberals.  This will force every one of the pro-big government progressives on record as stopping the repeal.  As a poll from January 3rd shows,  60% of Americans now favor the repeal of Health Care Reform and 2012 is just next year.  Putting the far left wing extremists on record as destroyers of individual liberty and ignoring the will of the people is a plus for future Republican House members.

Keep a Negative in the Fore-front

Even if the repeal fails, continuing to keep the negative aspects of Health Care reform on the T.V., in the newspapers and in online media will continue to embolden Americans against the massive government overreach that Obamacare represents – and they will know who to blame.

Pile that on with the extreme gas prices that are sure to visit us after the drilling moratorium, E15 ethanol increase and the expected real inflation from porkulus, QE2 and many other failed Keynesian measures and you have Jimmy Carter part II.  Food and Fuel prices will go through the roof, Obamacare will be shown to be too expensive to fund at both the State and Federal level, and liberal and RINO’s will take the heat for it – very soon.

Sets the Stage for Fixing Health Care Reform

If the vote for repeal fails or Obama vetoes it, voter anger against the Democrats for opposing the people’s will should lead moderate Democrats to be more open to changes in the legislation that might just make it palatable.  We could see tort reform, removal of the mandate, changes in Medicaid rules to relieve the State’s of funding Health Care Reform, allow the purchase of insurance across state lines and many other reforms that would actually make a difference.

It Just Might Work

There is the outside chance that between legislative persistence and load vocal support for repeal from the American public that it could succeed.  Obama is showing that he is already concerned about his prospects for 2012 as he pushed Gibbs out of the White House to start campaigning for him (as if Obama ever stopped campaigning).  If liberals start to feel that 2012 will be another progressive bloodbath, they may decide to be absent or vote for repeal – especially in moderate districts.

Conservatives have to keep Obama’s health care reform bill in the fore front of American’s minds for the next 22 months or until it is repealed or replaced because that’s what the people want.

HR 5 The New House Rules under Speaker Boehner

The new House Rules are published.  If you’re up for the 34 page read, the full text is here, otherwise, here’s a quick breakdown of the important stuff:

  1. All bills and joint resolutions must cite the specific powers granted to Congress in the Constitution that allow the enactment of the legislation
  2. Legislation has to be available to members, delegates and the Resident Commissioner for three days before a vote
  3. Requires the establishment of standards to make documents publicly available in electronic form
  4. Recording of committee votes on rules
  5. “..include proposals to cut or eliminate programs, including mandatory spending programs, that are inefficient, duplicative, outdated, or more appropriately administered by State or local governments”
  6. Locks down the Highway Trust Fund so that it can only be used for those purposes for which the fund was established
  7. Forces a vote on specific budget bills and amendments – no more omnibus spending crap
  8. Slows down the process for “future appropriations” and adds significant accountability and specificity
  9. Requires the reading of the Constitution on January 6th

It appears that transparency, cost reduction and accountability are the order of the day.

Boehner Cleans Up Congressional “Sausage Making”

John Boehner calls democrat maneuver chicken crapMost Americans have heard that legislating is like making sausage.  Everyone likes the product, but no one likes how it gets made.  According to a NewYork Times article, the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, is about to make the process as interesting as the the product.

It is usual for the House to tweak these rules with each new session. But Representative John A. Boehner, who on Wednesday will be sworn in as the new speaker, has made serious alterations in the rules. Members will vote on Wednesday on changes that ostensibly increase the transparency of lawmaking, but also consolidate Republican power over the budget process.

If the New York Times sees Boehner’s moves as increasing transparency .. it must be so.  Finally, a Conservative will accomplish with Pelosi, Reid and Obama have been lying about for the last several years: transparency, accountability, fairness.  The article continues with some lip-smacking good details (emphasis mine)

Mr. Boehner seeks to do away with large omnibus spending bills, preferring to break them into smaller bills, and to allow for more amendments on bills generally, and more extensive debate.

Ruh-roh, over-porked gigantic spending bills were a source for some of the articles on CDN .. could the end be near?

Members offering bills for new programs will have to explain how they will pay for them, not by raising new revenues but by finding other ways to cut costs. Each bill introduced will also have to cite the specific constitutional authority for its contents

This is the kind of accountability I want from my legislators.  How will you pay for it and prove its constitutionality upon authoring the bill.  Mr. Boehner’s prepared remarks for Wednesday’s speech at the gavel ceremony spell it out:

We will dispense with the conventional wisdom that bigger bills are always better; that fast legislating is good legislating; that allowing additional amendments and open debate makes the legislative process ‘less efficient’ than our forefathers intended. These misconceptions have been the basis for the rituals of modern Washington. The American people have not been well served by them.

Where the old grey lady got it wrong was when they attacked the House for their approach to repealing the highly-costly Obamacare law.

That bill will not be subject to amendments, nor will Republicans have to abide by their own new rules that compel them to offset the cost of new bills that add to the deficit; the health care repeal and tax cuts are not subject to this new rule.

Why would the GOP need to show how they will pay for repealing a bill that will cost over one trillion dollars?  Heck, just repealing the thing will save money.  If nothing else, nothing in Obamacare that saved federal dollars went into affect in 2010, so the cost of repeal is .. nothing, nada, zero.  The Republicans are repealing a law that is largely not yet in effect.

It is yet to be seen if House Republicans can truly live up to their fiscally-conservative promises.  From what I see coming from Mr. Boehner, they have already done more to increase transparency, accountability and trust in just 24 hours than the tyrant trio of Pelosi, Reid and Obama managed in 2 years.

Senate Liberals Plan Historic Power Grab

Using parliamentary gimmicks similar to those used to pass Obamacare, Harry Reid and his band of far-left progressives plan to run the Senate just like they did with a super-majority.  The Senate was constructed to be the house of Congress where the minority party could weigh in, therefor producing more even-handed legislation.  Dingy Harry has other plans.

Even if these highly-questionable tactics work, Americans will take out their anger upon the Senate Democrats that come up for re-election oh so shortly.  We will be watching to see if they follow-through.  If they do, it will be reposted constantly during the pre-election period.

Cantor’s House Bill To Repeal Obamacare Hits the Net

An un-numbered House Resolution has been posted to the Rules Committee website for the House of Representatives.  The full resolution text is available here, but it’s all of two pages and the important part is in the 1st paragraph.

To repeal the job-killing health care law and health care-related provisions in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
Two pages.. and it’s dead-on

E.P.A. Oversteps Regulatory Authority on Auto Fuels – Groups File to Overturn

Petroleum industry to file suit against EPA on e15 ethanolThe National Petrochemical & Refiners Association joined with the International Liquid Terminals Association and the Western States Petroleum Association to file a law suit intended to overturn a recent regulatory overreach by the Obama Administration.

The E15 Proposal and Granted Waiver

In March of 2009, Growth Energy and several other alternative fuels organizations petitioned the EPA to have E15 introduced for use in vehicles not specifically modified to deal with the caustic nature of ethyl alcohol (ethanol).  In October, the Environmental Protection Agency bowed to the corn-to-fuel lobby and granted a partial waiver allowing for the use of E15 (15%) ethanol fuels in all vehicles newer than 2007.

Misfueling, the accidental fueling of a vehicle with the incorrect fuel, is a serious concern.  The cost to repair a fuel system once ethanol has done its damage is considerable.  The EPA web site mentions that they are working on a way to reduce misfueling, but they aren’t holding this waiver until that solution is drawn up.

..the EPA is concurrently issuing a proposed rule with the express purpose of reducing the potential for misfueling of E15 into vehicles, engines, and products for which it is not approved.  If finalized, this rule will satisfy the misfueling mitigation conditions of today’s partial waiver.

The Next Step for the EPA is Older Vehicles

The EPA waiver also discusses 2001-2006 vehicles.

EPA is deferring a decision on MY2001-2006 light-duty motor vehicles.  DOE is in the process of conducting additional catalyst durability testing that will provide data regarding MY2001-2006 motor vehicles.  The DOE testing is scheduled to be completed by the end of November 2010.  EPA will make the DOE test results available to the public and consider the results and other available data and information in making a determination on E15 for use in those model year motor vehicles.

Problems With Ethanol 15 and higher

Only catalyst durability testing?  That will only prove whether or not the fuel is stable.  What about engine durability testing?  While ethanol’s instability is certainly a concern, fuel system components made for gasoline do not react well with corn-alcohol (ethanol).  A 50% increase in the amount of ethanol in fuels will cause failure of fuel hosing, pumps, seals and possibly injection/carbeuration.   An article at Hagerty.com relays the problem that ethanol presents to older vehicles:

  • Corrosion caused by contact between two dissimilar metals when the metals are in contact with an electrolyte, like ethanol. It looks like this.
  • Rubber components like fuel hoses, carburetor seals and gaskets, and fuel pump seals may be hardened, dissolved or distorted by contact with ethanol. This may lead to fuel leaks.
  • Ethanol holds water very readily and can expose fuel system components and steel gas tanks to rust. This is especially prevalent in boats.
  • Even low concentrations of ethanol have been shown to damage fiberglass fuel tanks. Ethanol dissolves the lining of fiberglass fuel tanks, often depositing a dark “sludge” inside marine engines causing costly damage. Eventually, fiberglass tanks dissolve until they fail, leaking fuel.
  • Metal parts, such as in-tank fuel pumps and carburetor floats, may be subject to pitting, rust or corrosion when in contact with ethanol blends.

The only way to prevent this damage is to replace fuel system components with ethanol-safe parts or buy a newer vehicle with the flex-fuel designation.  Either way, Americans will be yet again saddled with the cost of the progressive agenda.

Having to upgrade your fuel system or buy a new car are expensive enough, but even according to the government site FuelEconomy.gov it’s evident that higher ethanol content will also have you paying even more for a gallon of fuel.

FFVs experience no loss in performance when operating on E85. However, since ethanol contains less energy per volume than gasoline, FFVs typically get about 25-30% fewer miles per gallon when fueled with E85.

So your 30 mpg turns to 20-23mpg on E85.  Perhaps you only lose 3-4mpg with E15, but that’s after you just spent money to upgrade your fuel system or the entire car.  Upgrade costs, lower mileage, and it will further increase the price pressure on corn as more corn fields are turned into fuel.  That means the less-efficient, fuel-system destroying fuel will also cost more.

The Suit Against the EPA

It would be easy to look at the petroleum industry’s suit as a special interest protecting their profits.  If that’s the position taken than one must also agree that Green Growth and tons of other corn-to-fuel businesses lobbied the EPA to put this waiver in place.  It’s one fuel provider against another.

The real concern should be how the waiver was obtained.  At least the petroleum industry lawyers are attacking the proper problem, regulatory overreach.  While those involved in the suit will file written arguments in coming weeks, they had this much to say in a January 3rd press release:

NPRA and the other organizations today filed a petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to review and overturn the EPA decision, contending EPA violated the Clean Air Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

The lawsuit by the groups will argue that EPA does not have authority under the Clean Air Act to approve a partial waiver that allows the use of E15 in some engines but not in others.

In addition, the lawsuit will contend that EPA based its partial waiver decision on new data submitted to the public rulemaking docket on the day before EPA announced the partial waiver, providing no time for the stakeholder review or meaningful public comment required under the Administrative Procedure Act.

This is exactly the same kind of circumvention of American law and process that the FCC used to put it’s tyrannical control of the internet in place.  Perhaps the courts are the last hope to protect American citizens from a government bent on even more control.

Illegal Immigrant is Not a Derogatory Term

Last Week, an eerily Orwellian opinion article by Leo Laurence was published by the Society Of Professional Journalists.  The post declared that “illegal immigrant” is to be considered an offensive term and that “undocumented worker” should be used instead.  Some illegal immigrants don’t work and/or may have falsified documents.  Neither undocumented nor working are accurate terms in all cases with this segment of the population.  However, they are definitely in the United States illegally.

Progressives have long worked to remove negative connotations through semantics, this makes historically unacceptable conditions .. acceptable.  Orwell tried to illustrate this activity in 1984. In Orwell’s book, the main character, Winston, works for the Ministry of Truth.  His job is to change terms and facts to those more acceptable to the ruling oligarchy.  The terms must align to a dictionary published by the ruling elite.  This is the art of semanticists to water down terms so that they can continue to progress their agenda without active opposition.   Richard M. Weaver explored this concept in detail in his work Ideas Have Consequences.

Here begins the assault upon definition: if words no longer correspond to objective realities, it seems no great wrong to take liberties with words.

This is the tactic, but the end to which they are working is much more disconcerting – it is confusion, of course.  By claiming that these are simply undocumented workers, they are disassociated with the idea that they have broken the law.  They are simply workers that just don’t have some unimportant piece of paper.  If Americans accept the breaking of some laws simply because the word used to describe the criminals has changed, which law is next?

Laurence attempts to defend his position by using the fifth amendment, another progressive suddenly referring to the Constitution only when it seems to favor their agenda.

One of the most basic of our constitutional rights is that everyone (including non-citizens) is innocent of anycrime until proven guilty in a court of law. That’s guaranteed under the Fifth, Sixth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution, as I learned during four-year post-doctoral studies in appellate law at the California Court of Appeal in San Diego.

If that were the premise for his article, he would simply be adding the term “alleged” in front of “Illegal immigrant”.  That’s what is done with those accused of all crimes until found guilty.  So if “Alleged Illegal Immigrant” is more tolerable, then so be it –  is objective, it is factual.  Once the accused informs authorities of his alien status, he then could become an admitted illegal alien.  All semantics to cover the real issue.   The people labelled with the moniker have immigrated to the United States by knowingly and purposefully breaking immigration law.  Once that has been proven, we do and will call them illegal immigrants or illegal aliens.

Offensive terms are much less objective and may have nothing to do with facts.  If we are referring to Mexican immigrants, a long-used and truly offensive term was “wetback”.  I think having replaced wetback, with illegal immigrant is fair and truthful.  The only ones that take issue with the term are those that would rather play with the meaning of words than enforce our laws.

In all fairness, the Society of Professional Journalists made sure no one thought that SPJ was in agreement or disagreement with Laurence.  The article is headed with:

CLARIFICATION: The following article is an opinion piece and does not reflect the views of SPJ, its membership or its Diversity Committee. The committee itself has taken no official initiative on the use of the phrase “illegal immigrant.”

Economist Survey Finds Slow Growth Ahead for 2011

BNA LOGOARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The recovery will pick up steam in 2011, but growth will remain moderate, according to the consensus forecast of 25 economists surveyed for legal and business publisher BNA’s annual outlook on the U.S. and international economy.

Both inflation and the Federal Reserve’s target interest rate are expected to remain low. A self-sustaining expansion will hinge on increased job growth, consumer spending, business investment, and exports, as government stimulus continues to fade.

U.S. Economy

  • The 18-month-old recovery will gain strength in 2011, although the pace of growth will remain moderate compared with that of prior rebounds.
  • Key underpinnings of growth include business and consumer spending, U.S. exports, and increased hiring; with additional support provided by the federal tax cut package enacted at the end of 2010.
  • Major risks to the economy could develop if energy prices jump, business remain reluctant to add workers, or the European debt crisis becomes widespread.

Labor Markets

  • Employment gains will average 156,000 jobs per month in the first six months of 2011, accelerating to 193,000 jobs per month in the second half.
  • The unemployment rate will decline gradually during the year but remain high, averaging 9.5 percent in the first half and 9.2 percent in the second half.
  • Private sector workers’ total hourly compensation will grow 2.2 percent in 2011, up from a 2.0 percent hike in 2010, as of the third quarter.

Monetary Policy

  • Inflation is expected to stay tame, well below the Federal Reserve’s preferred rate of about 2 percent.
  • The Fed is expected to complete its planned purchase of $600 billion of Treasury debt by June 30, but is unlikely to expand the program.
  • The central bank is likely to maintain its historically low, near-zero federal funds rate target for all of 2011.

World Economy

  • The global economy is expected to continue expanding in 2011, although at a moderate pace in most countries.
  • U.S. and European economies are expected to show more momentum and build on growth in 2010.
  • Analysts see potential for surprises on upside with possibly higher than expected growth in some economies and higher inflation in emerging markets.