"Once abolish God and the government becomes the God." -G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Defending Tom Delay

If the midterm elections indicated a shellacking, Texas Democrats can at least take solace in the conviction of Republican Tom Delay last week on money laundering charges. In fact, almost every Democrat I've run into, with nothing else to look forward to except TSA pat-downs over the holidays, has been giddy when bringing up the trial of the 20 year Congressman and former house majority leader.

I'm certainly no fan of entrenched politicians, and Delay has been cozier with lobbyists than I got over Thanksgiving with my Snuggie. Still, allow me to mount a modest defense for Tom.

Let's start with the crime itself, something most haven't bothered to explain in plain and simple terms. Once you do, the whole thing starts to sound like an exercise in absurdity. In 2002, Tom Delay had a political action committee that raised money through corporate donations. This in itself is normal and legal. He contributed $190,000 of this money to the RNC. Again, nothing wrong with that. The RNC then donated $190,000 to seven candidates running in Texas. All of this is 100% legal.

What isn't legal is donating corporate money directly to Texas candidates, which some questioned whether this process was set up to circumvent. Did Delay intend all along to get corporate PAC money to these candidates? Did the donations these candidates received include any of that money? Impossible to tell and even harder to prove. The RNC has their own "firewall" between individual and corporate donations, and is free to spend on Republican candidates at their discretion.

However, sour Democrats - having lost six of the seven races where the RNC money was inserted - pushed for the opportunity to take Tom Delay out to the woodshed and force him to eat a vegan meal for three weeks or at least punish him somehow for his sin of politically outmaneuvering them. Travis County, with its brazen Democrat District Attorney, Ronnie Earle, provided the prime outlet for their rage. He went grand-jury shopping until he finally got an indictment (it took three tries).

We are dealing with highly circumstantial evidence here. Even the prosecution admits as much. Hence, the creative money laundering charge. The only problem is Delay's money was raised legally, whereas money laundering involves money solicited through illegal activity. There is no precedent for bringing money laundering charges in this type of case. It doesn't meet the threshold, and yet this jury bought it.

As for the jury, according to the New York Times, it consisted of, "a Republican, 6 Democrats, 3 independent liberals, and 2 independents." I'm going to be generous and call that 2 conservatives, 9 Democrats/liberals, and 1 undecided. Not even the Daily Kos would consider stacking their poll this far to the Left to get the results they wanted. Needless to say, this is probably cause for an appeal.

Call me crazy, but it's hard to be outraged at Tom Delay's actions when Democrat Maxine Waters - who is still serving in Congress - successfully lobbied the House Financial Services Committee (and Rep. Barney Frank) for millions in TARP money to bail out the bank her husband owns shares in. That's a breach of ethics, an abuse of power, and taking advantage of a crisis for personal profit. Not only are Mr. Delay's actions not in the same ballpark, they don't even qualify as t-ball by comparison.

In the case of Mr. Delay, we aren't talking about taxpayer money and we aren't even talking about a lot of money. Compare this to what's taking place on Capitol Hill right now as taxpayer money is funneled to cronies under the guise of the stimulus. President Obama's heavy-handed transfer of wealth to the unions while cooking the books at Government Motors is certainly more egregious.

Ultimately, whether you like Mr. Delay or loathe him is irrelevant. Whether you approve of the redistricting that occurred in 2003 is a moot point. All of his policy positions in Congress, all the junkets he took with lobbyists, etc. - all of this is irrelevant. We don't send people to jail because we don't like their politics. We send them to jail because they flaunt the law beyond a reason of a doubt and violate the people's trust.

In Washington, grants are awarded every day on a quid pro quo basis, votes are bought with earmarks, etc. A month ago, I highlighted the case of Lloyd Doggett steering money to ImagineSolar in Austin to use as job training for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which in turn donated $10,000 to Mr. Doggett's campaign. That's suspect and sadly the norm for career politicians looking out for their own self-interest. You can make that case against Mr. Delay if you want, you can hold him up as an example of everything wrong with Washington, you can vote bums like him out of office, but don't go down the perilous road of criminalizing politics.

The first Al-Qaeda member to be tried in civilian court, Embassy Bomber Ahmed Ghailani, was recently acquitted on 279 of 280 counts brought by our incompetent Justice Department. He is responsible for the death and disfigurement of hundreds of people but could serve as little as 20 years. It would be a shame if somehow Mr. Delay (who can get up to 99) went to jail for longer. It would be a shame, because it would not follow the tradition of the United States but that of the Soviet Union, where perpetrators of political "crimes" always got the tougher sentences.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Night Football: Saturday Night Live

The sign of a good parody is you can't stop thinking about it whenever you watch the original show it's parodying. For me, that has made this gem from SNL a few weeks ago (hosted by Jane Lynch) worth posting. It literally gets in my head when I just hear someone mention Sunday Night Football on NBC (especially that nacho recipe). It's not the SNL of my youth (Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Kevin Neelon, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Farley, and Norm McDonald - wow, what a cast), but it's the best they've managed in at least a few years.

I've also posted the original theme song below from NBC football by Faith Hill, just in case you never realized how ridiculous it is.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

American Splendor: Of Cruise Ships, Veterans, and the Meaning of Sacrifice

Am I the only one to find it strange and disheartening to see soldiers overshadowed on Veteran's Day by tales of survival from a cruise ship? On Thursday morning, the Carnival Splendor was towed into port in San Diego after a fire in the engine room knocked out electricity, stranding passengers without hot food, hot water, or flushing toilets for almost 72 hours.

This hardly sounds like my ideal vacation, especially given that there were 250 "magicians" on board (which is admittedly a step up from 250 clowns), and you can bet I would want my money back. I hesitate to call it a "nightmare" though, as many news articles have been quick to refer to it. Nightmares on ocean liners look like the Titanic or the Lusitania. Not being able to use the swimming pool or get room service, that's inconvenient but hardly an unspeakable horror.

If you want to hear about real sacrifices, about going without hot food or showers for weeks, talk to a soldier. If you want to hear miraculous stories of survival, I'd refer you to a veteran except many of them would rather keep their personal stories to themselves. You might want to read John McCain's autobiography, Faith of My Fathers, not to be confused with Barack Obama's Dreams from my Father (sadly Americans these days appear to prefer dreams over faith). The men and women of our armed forces have given more than we could ever imagine. Complaining about being on a cruise ship for two days that's serving free beer and wine because the toilets are backed up is a field trip in comparison.

I only bring this up because the story of the nightmare cruise became the story of the day when we were supposed to be honoring our veterans. And because I had to read quotes like this from passengers interviewed in the New York Times:

But it was even more difficult for the vegetarians on the ship, said Eric Newman, 27, of Ventura, Calif., who was on his first cruise, with his sister. Mr. Newman said that while most of the crew members had been exceedingly cheery, one snapped at him when he asked for extra salad or fruit. In the end, Mr. Newman said, he marched to the kitchen himself to find something he could eat.
“It seemed like they were not at all prepared for anything to ever go wrong,” he said. “That’s just arrogant. And it made everything really hard.”

Leave it to the Times to give us the vegetarians perspective of suffering on a day set aside to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by so many families who worry about their loved one during wartime, not to mention those who fight for our freedom. Is it just me or has Veteran's Day lost a little of its significance to the mainstream media ever since a Democrat became Commander-in-Chief? After all, when was the last time you heard about Cindy Sheehan?

It seems like just last week we were marveling at the resilience of the human spirit as we pulled trapped miners out of a shaft in Chile who had been stranded half a mile below the earth's surface for 69 days. I'm pretty sure they didn't have hot water and would have killed for a pop tart or cold sandwich. But leave it to pampered American tourists to make two and a half days on a luxury cruise ship seem like the equivalence of sacrifice.

Maybe we should send some of these folks to Afghanistan for a few days just so they can appreciate how good they really have it. Actually, it's because we have soldiers willing to go to Afghanistan (or anywhere really) that America has it so good.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Creating an Economy of Abundance

We live in an economy of attrition brought on by a progressive and abusive income tax scheme. The average American goes out and creates wealth, either by working or starting a business, and before he or she can even bring home the fruits of their labor, the federal government steps in and takes a huge chunk. They force us to pay off the special interests in the swamps of D.C. before we are even allowed to take care of our own families. What we are allowed to keep is often a third less than what we earned, meaning we take home no money for almost two full days of work each week. In return, the government creates more entitlement programs that are guaranteed to cost us more in the long run, creating runaway debt and ensuring that funds are at a minimum when it comes time to collect our share of benefits.

This is not the freedom our founding fathers promised us. This is indentured servitude. This is why our economy is mired in anemic growth, high unemployment, and stagnant wages. We have constricted free enterprise with a bureaucratic empire of red tape and a tax code that's over 78,000 pages long. One in three dollars spent by businesses today goes toward paying accountants and lawyers to meet the onerous rules and regulations created by Washington. Many large corporations move overseas or find a way to pay smaller taxes in other countries rather than face the huge burden placed on their fiscal heath by Uncle Sam.

This ultimately leads to an attrition of wealth, and the evidence of this attrition in the United States today is everywhere. Fewer entrepreneurs create businesses, fewer venture capitalists take risks, fewer companies hire, fewer banks lend, fewer families spend money out and even fewer have savings left over, fewer nonprofits raise money, fewer churches build hospitals, fewer tax revenues come in locally, and fewer of the downtrodden receive the help they need. The more the government is allowed to confiscate, the more selfishly people hang on to what they have. The more laws that are created to seize assets, the more everyone finds tax shelters to skirt the letter of the law.

Possessions become more valuable in an economy of attrition. At the height of the Soviet Union, formed with the naive goal of creating a Worker’s Paradise where everything belonged to everybody, it became common for citizens to hide their most prized possessions from even their relatives, to steal from the state factories and farms where they worked, and even rarer to offer a helping hand to one’s neighbors, an act which could only arouse suspicions. 

Granting the state ever-increasing power to take more of our private property and to have a larger stake in the fruits of our labor is not only a peril to our freedom, but it costs us in goodwill towards men. To continue down this course is insanity. What we need, in fact what America once had as an advantage over the rest of the world, is an economy of abundance. An economy of abundance is built on the idea of free enterprise, private property free from government seizure, allowing the individual to keep more wealth with the understanding that he or she is more likely to share it, either by spending it in the local economy or donating it to the causes closest to their heart.

Imagine if you could create a permanent stimulus in which 30% more dollars circulated through the U.S. economy. This is not a pie in the sky idea. It’s the economy of abundance that would be created by abolishing the IRS and switching to a FairTax, and it’s the fastest, freest way to permanently jump start the economy to deliver an increase in real wages to workers. 

President Obama and the Democrats printed and borrowed a trillion dollars to pump into the economy in hopes of boosting GDP and easing us out of a recession. The idea of this so-called stimulus was more money circulating through more hands and businesses would create jobs. The reason it failed so miserably isn’t because a trillion dollars was pumped into circulation, but because it was pumped into pet projects and left wing causes by politicians completely detached from anything greater than their own self interest.

What if that same trillion dollars wasn’t steered from the government downward to the select few with ties to the ruling class, but instead flowed upward from the people? By taxing individuals on what they consume voluntarily, rather than confiscating what they earn, the FairTax pumps more money through the economy. Instead of the current tax system sucking a trillion and a half dollars out of circulation and into the hands of government bureaucrats, removing money from the pockets of wage-earners and businesses before it can be spent, we let all that currency enter the market and exchange hands freely before we tax it. In doing so, we have created a permanent stimulus without the government having to print dollars or borrow money from China.

The FairTax usually gets a bad rap because it’s easy to mischaracterize and it takes more than a sound bite to explain. Thus, you get wild claims from career politicians addicted to exploiting the current tax scheme to curry favor with voting blocs and lobbyists that a FairTax will add 23% to the cost of everything you buy. This is completely bogus. Besides ignoring the advantages of workers getting to keep every dime they earn, this claim ignores the embedded taxes currently configured into the price of goods and services, which amount to approximately 22% of the cost. By abolishing the IRS and eliminating corporate taxes, you drive the cost of all products down. It's a win-win situation for everyone except the politicians.

We’ve only had an income tax in this country for the past 100 years, and it took a constitutional amendment to institute such an invasion of privacy and abuse of power. It was not part of the vision of our founding fathers, and for good reason. To argue its existence as necessary would suggest America couldn’t succeed and thrive for our first 140 years. But of course we did just fine, and states like Texas continue to prove that not having an income tax leads to a more accountable government, higher quality of living, job creation, freedom to innovate, unprecedented population growth, and a general abundance of wealth.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Burnt-Out Orange: Longhorns Unexpectedly Find Themselves in Cellar of Big 12 South

Exactly how bad are the 2010 Texas Longhorns? Bad enough for me to mention them in a polical blog. So bad I would rather watch Dancing with the Stars than another UT game this year. That's right. I would rather subject myself to the spectacle of Bristol Palin foxtrotting than watch Garrett Gilbert run this inept offense for one more scoreless trip down the field. And Mack Brown - you deserve to be booed. I've never seen a Texas team play with less enthusiasm or urgency. Even John Macovich's final season saw a bad UT team at least compete in close games.

A year after being badly outcoached in the National Championship against Alabama (you don't run an empty backfield set on a crucial third down against a blitzing defense with a freshman quarterback), the Longhorns are being badly outcoached by everybody - well, except Nebraska. Was that or was that not the fluke of the year?

After being crushed 39-14 by unranked Kansas State, Texas can admit they're not just struggling to find themselves - they are a downright awful football team. A team ranked fifth in the country at one point (which was admittedly a joke) now occupies sole last place in the Big 12 South. Not Baylor. Not Texas Tech. Not even Texas A&M. The mighty Texas Longhorns are 4-5 (2-4 in conference) and their record actually might be better than they look on the field. If the Longhorns don't manage two more wins, and they won't, they will miss appearing in a bowl game for the first time since Mack Brown arrived on the scene.

Actually, pray they miss a bowl game unless you want to witness a crushing defeat to Navy in the Pinstripe Bowl. Given Saturday night's embarrasing blowout loss, do you really think they stand a chance against Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, or any team with a winning record? In my best Jersey accent, fuhgetaboutit.

This team is done. Garrett Gilbert has been set up for failure. Let this be a lesson to any future aspiring homegrown quarterbacks - get as far away from Austin as you can where the expectations aren't out of this world. The weight of replacing Vince Young and Colt McCoy has been thrust on the sophomore quarterback's shoulders without the tools necessary to succeed. He has no running game. His offensive line can't pass protect. And the schemes he is being asked to direct by Greg Davis are as predictable as an over-the-top liberal commentary by Keith Olbermann.

Meanwhile, the team has shown no passion to compete. In the second half of the Kansas State game, I actually saw the punter trying to fire up the team. The friggin' punter!!! That's a team as devoid of leadership as the DNC. It's like they expect to lose or at least it appears they don't mind losing. Vince Young refused to accept such a prospect. Colt McCoy, even when he struggled, never stopped competing. Gilbert already has more losses in his first season than the two star quartebacks combined in their entire college careers. Not that you can put it all on Gilbert.

It's time to shake things up. Mack Brown has lost this team. No one expects him to be fired, but if he doesn't make some coaching staff changes soon, we will lose our star recruits. Seriously. Why would you still come to Texas, especially with the threat of the Big 12 dissolving?

As I turn back the clock tonight, one thought comes to mind. I wish I could turn back the clock on the Texas season, not because I expect the Longhorns to always win or play for a championship, but because I expect them to play every snap with pride. There's no excuse for this type of shellacking. These kids aren't less talented than Kansas State. They are playing like they are entitled to something just because they suit up at UT. Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

With the Dallas Cowboys season on the ropes as well, basketball season can't get here fast enough. I guess in that regard we have more in common with Kansas that we'd like to admit. How do you feel about your team, Rick Barnes? Let's hope they give us more on the court than these Longhorns have given us on the field. Hookem.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Campbell vs. Doggett Wrap-Up: Inept Media Coverage, Tone-Deaf Victory Speeches, and 2012

How bad was the Election Night coverage in Central Texas for the congressional race between Lloyd Doggett and Dr. Donna Campbell? It was difficult to even find the results scrolling across the TV screens of many Austin affiliates. They would go through every statewide race, the Texas congressional districts, some of the national races, and then move into bond proposals before going back to the Governor's race. Halfway through the evening, the Austin-American Statesman tweeted that Doggett had moved ahead 66 to 32%. Only problem was this data only included Travis County. A few minutes later, the local Fox 7 affiliate reported the same erroneous numbers. They even put a graphic on the screen. So much for competent and unbiased journalism.

Lloyd Doggett eventually prevailed 53% to 45%, but couldn't announce the victory until almost 11 pm. Consider this a nail-biter given his history in the district, where he usually wins by a 30 plus point margin.

But if Election Night coverage of a tight race (predicted here from the beginning) was underwhelming, the media coverage leading up to the election was just as nonexistent. In doing a search of the Austin-American Statesman and Donna Campbell, one is lucky to come up with three or four articles. That's over the entire campaign, absolutely pathetic coverage for a pivotal race by a major city newspaper.

One of the articles actually wasted time fact-checking a single line from a thirty minute speech where Donna Campbell called Mr. Doggett, "the most liberal congressman in Washington." I believe that's called puffery, hardly intentional deception and hardly worth a fact-check, but leave it to the Statesman to waste our time. No word yet on whether the Statesman will also be fact-checking whether Mr. Gatti's has "the best pizza in town." Later, when Doggett sent out a mailer claiming Dr. Campbell wanted to raise taxes 23%, a flier that surely did some damage to her candidacy, the Statesman was silent. Sadly, this is what passes for election coverage in a midterm. No wonder over 50% of the voters choose to stay home.

Some of the small town papers were even worse. Whoever runs the Hays Free Press falsely reported Lloyd Doggett voted against the stimulus bill. Getting easy-to-verify facts correct should be the essential duty of any news provider, but the Free Press folks clearly prioritize ideology over being a trusted news source. Hopefully, area residents don't rely on that paper for too much information. They regularly dedicated pages to shamefully promote Mr. Doggett's local appearances, but failed to give Donna Campbell so much as a sentence of coverage.

Surprisingly enough, some of the more reliable reporting in this race came from the Austin Chronicle. Even I'm shocked by this revelation, considering the leftist perspective of the alternative weekly (I don't see how you actually label yourself alternative when you parrot the same old talking points of the majority of Travis County libs - wouldn't a true alternative present viewpoints that weren't in the Austin mainstream?) Still, Lee Nichols should be commended for being a better reporter than his brethren at the Austin-American Statesman or any of the local news channels.

Speaking of which, while I got one or two details wrong digging inside the numbers of District 25, Lee should admit that my analysis of the competitiveness of the race was dead-on. I never promised a win for Dr. Campbell, but I was one of the few who realized she could pull off an upset with a strong rural and suburban showing. Another 10% turnout in Hays, Bastrop, and Caldwell Counties, a one to two percent shift in the Travis County results, and this race could have gone the other way. And now I'm nitpicking, Lee, but you shouldn't have let Lloyd Doggett get away with the whole "I voted against the bailouts" thing. Doggett voted against one bailout - as in singular, not plural - the TARP. That was over two years ago. Then he voted for the financial reform bill which actually makes "too big to fail" the permanent policy of our federal government with no further TARP votes ever required.

As it turns out, we got a very exciting race in Central Texas. Now for redistricting! Lloyd Doggett should probably just be handed downtown and east Austin. His legislative record is dismal given the 16 (and now 18) years he's served in Washington. Very few legislative accomplishments, too much debt and expansion of government, a complete dismissal of the trouble social security and Medicare are in... yet still Austin treats this public servant millionaire like their favorite son. Must be those earmarks he keeps sending back for hiking trails.

As for Dr. Campbell, my sources say she is seriously considering a 2012 run - and perhaps in a newly created Central Texas district where she doesn't have to go up against the media-coddled Doggett. Although who could complain if they faced off again? I just wish the political pundits in Austin would hold him to the same standard they hold Rick Perry to and call the longtime Democrat out for ducking tough questions and not debating his opponent. That's the kind of vibrant exercise in democracy all Austinites deserve, whether you are a progressive or conservative.

The kicker in all of this was Mr. Doggett's victory speech. If he learned anything from his contested race, he didn't show it. King Lloyd ripped into the tea party, once again demonizing and ostracizing a large core of his constituents, saying "we added a spoonful of sugar to their bitter brew." Later he droned on about the tea party "not having much interest in the truth." This from a guy who was too scared to run on his legislative record. If he was humbled, he didn't show it, stating his "main opponent was overconfidence."

One day even Democrats will realize they need to hold their most entrenched career politicians accountable. Until then, expect Lloyd Doggett to add to his millions of personal fortune while spending the taxpayers into oblivion. Here's hoping he's marginalized as much by the new GOP majority as he has marginalized the people of Central Texas.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day: America's Last Stand

For the past two years, we have watched the nation move in the wrong direction - and fast. We have watched as Big Government has grown and the rights of the individual shrank. We have watched as debt expanded rapidly, and prosperity dissipated. We have watched as food stamps and unemployment became reality, and opportunities became history.

We have watched and waited and finally, it's time, America to regain our voice. Election Day is upon us!

The action you take today will determine the future course of this great nation. Your vote will help elect leaders who can reverse the course of ruinous European-style socialism and put America back on the firm footing of our founding principles of limited government. Your pledge to elect conservative candidates this election cycle is the most important contribution you can make to your children and grandchildren.

We cannot imagine the alternative. We cannot allow progressive Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Lloyd Doggett to endlessly grow government and redistribute wealth for another two years. We cannot sustain more record deficits, high unemployment, and anemic job growth. We cannot entertain the consequences of not holding our elected officials accountable.

These career politicians have enriched themselves while the rest of America has grown weaker, sicker, and poorer. These ruling class millionaires have delivered change alright, and it is a fundamental change in the relationship between the government and the people in favor of the state.

The voters of Texas stand ready to defend liberty, and the battleground is our nearest ballot box. Momentum is gaining. Voter turnout is strong. Now is the time to regain our voice, cast off the bonds of servitude, and cast our vote for self-government and power planted firmly in the hands of the people.

They say history repeats itself, but remarkable achievements by people in the face of history rarely get a second chance. We must not lose this opportunity.

I have only one midterm election prediction: America will stand up strong for our values. We will not let the pseudo social science of the progressive Left overtake the foundations of this great nation.  Whether 50, 60, or 70 seats are picked up, the exact number is irrelevant. What is relevant is the defense of liberty, a sea change from the election of 2008 that ushered in Barack Hussein Obama.

May freedom prevail and God Bless America!