Monday, January 31, 2011

Federal judge strikes down Obamacare's individual mandate

Then he went one better and invalidated the whole law due to the severability issue. In his 78-page ruling, Judge Vinson declared that the government can't do whatever the heck it wants and call it "general welfare":
The Necessary and Proper Clause cannot be utilized to “pass laws for the accomplishment of objects” that are not within Congress’ enumerated powers. As the previous analysis of the defendants’ Commerce Clause argument reveals, the individual mandate is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Constitution. To uphold that provision via application of the Necessary and Proper Clause would authorize Congress to reach and regulate far beyond the currently established “outer limits” of the Commerce Clause and effectively remove all limits on federal power.
The full ruling is here and it's everything I've been ranting about for months. The government, no matter how virtuous the intention, can't call inactivity "activity" and punish you for doing nothing. Otherwise it's compulsory broccoli and exercise for everyone, and the end of limited and enumerated powers.

Update - Choice cuts here, with a Tea Party shout-out.

Extra - "Simply the best!" says the Volokh Conspiracy: " far the best court opinion on this issue so far."

More - Opinion Journal: "The Constitutional Moment."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Movie night - Saw "The King's Speech" tonight. The chemistry between Geoffrey Rush and Colin Firth was very good. Best part: Logue's wife comes back early from her bridge game to find the Queen of England sitting in her dining room.

Was Firth's portrayal of George VI Oscar-worthy? Ehhhh....I'm not sure.

Also: it's a shame the movie was rated "R" because - aside from some choice words - it could have easily made a PG rating. It's the kind of movie that kids should see with themes of friendship, responsibility, and overcoming adversity.
Borrowing 40 cents for every dollar spent - Robert Robb on Real Clear Politics: "State of the Union: broke."
Is the curtain coming down on Mubarak? - NY Times: "Egypt protests continue as military stands by." "Egypt was engulfed in a fifth day of protests on Saturday but an attempt by President Hosni Mubarak to salvage his 30-year rule by firing his cabinet and calling out the army appeared to backfire as troops and demonstrators fraternized and called for the president himself to resign."

Friday, January 28, 2011

You can't stop the Intertubes! - Fox News: "Egyptians use low-tech gadgets to get around communication block." Is that a dial-up modem?
I'm unemployed

Today was my last day at a job I've held since I graduated from college twenty years ago. I won't get into all the details of my departure but I got to a point where I couldn't see a pathway forward in my career. So I sought out a new job and got one; I'm starting Monday.

What does this mean? Well, maybe the job market is not as bad as people think. Or maybe it's not so bad for engineers. Or maybe I got lucky. One thing for sure is that I'm excited to start a new chapter in my life and see where it goes.
Another big fan of Obama's SOTU - Ruth Marcus of the WashPost: "The state of the union is leaderless." More from Pundit & Pundette.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cruise-control spending

Here's Robert Samuelson on the real threats to the economy:

We cannot have a useful debate on the role of government - what it should do, for whom and at whose expense - if Americans are highly misinformed. Obama should have dispelled some common budgetary myths. Consider three:

Myth: The problem is the deficit. The real issue isn't the deficit. It's the exploding spending on the elderly - for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - which automatically expands the size of government. If we ended deficits with tax increases, we would simply exchange one problem (high deficits) for another (high taxes). Either would weaken the economy, and sharply higher taxes would represent an undesirable transfer to retirees from younger taxpayers.
President Obama's call to freeze discretionary spending for five-years is a laughable feint that freezes record spending levels on a tiny sliver of the overall budget. And while Obama has been promoting his "scalpel" approach to budget cutting versus the Republicans "chainsaw," even the whole toolshed will be inadequate:

The latest Obama plan would cut projected outlays by an estimated $400 billion in the next decade, and the Republican alternative would cut spending by $2.5 trillion. It's a measure of our predicament that these enormous sums wouldn't make a lot of difference, even if they were achieved. They're the equivalent of trying to empty a swimming pool with a tablespoon.
Clearly the problem is that the Federal government – over multiple Administrations – has over-promised what it can deliver. We are now running an annual deficit equal to the entire federal budget in the first year of the Clinton Administration and this was before – whoops! – we found out that Social Security is broke.

Oh, never mind. "The Office" is coming on. We're going to monetize the debt.
The hits just keep on comin' - Politico: "Deficits on pace to hit $2.58 trillion."
Equal under the law - Or not. Hot Air: "Obamacare waivers jump from 222 to 729 covering 2.2 million employees." Here's more from Q&O.
You say you want an (education) revolution - Eh, I'm sure I could have thought up a better title for this post. Masslive: "First Beatles scholar graduates from Liverpool university." That's right, she got a degree in Beatle-ology.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Waiting for leadership

These headlines today lay bare everything that was wrong with President Obama's SOTU address last night: "Federal deficit to hit $1.5 trillion in 2011" and "Medicare official doubts health care law savings."

There's a sizable chunk of the American populace (including me and my buddy Paul Ryan) who genuinely believe this country is heading towards a Greece-style debt meltdown. It was the animating force behind the Tea Party and the last election. Yet Obama gets in front of the country and starts talking about choo-choo trains and solar panels.

Here's some more commentary along the same lines:
Washington Post editorial: "A disappointing State of the Union address."
Peter Wehner on Contentions: "An irresponsible performance." "Obama spoke as if he were living in an alternate universe - one where a $14 trillion debt and a trillion dollar a year deficit don't exist."
Here's Matt Welch with "We don't do big things."...the only real policy issue in America right now is that we are on the verge of a fiscal catastrophe because we cannot afford the government we are paying for today, let alone the one we're promising for tomorrow."
Then there's Megan McArdle: "Our President spent over 5,000 words last night kind of noting, offhand, that we might have a problem, and then studiously avoiding proposing any serious solutions to the problem."
Where have I heard that before?

Me, yesterday: "This is all boilerplate stuff that could have been spoken by any modern-age President."

Daniel Henninger: "The speech's prelude could have been delivered by Ronald Reagan..."
The tipping point - Exchequer: "CBO: Social Security now officially broke." No more surpluses, it's all red ink from here on out.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"We do big things" - Yeah, no kidding.
The worst line of the night - What was the speechwriter thinking? "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing an engine. It may feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you feel the impact."

I'm sure they meant the resulting drop in velocity or performance but if somebody threw "impact" into a plane metaphor, they'd be taken aside by the TSA.
Always a crowd pleaser - I love when politicians want to "ask" millionaires to pay more taxes. Every U.S. citizen (even you) now owes $45K on the national debt. There is no level of confiscation from Bill Gates or Warren Buffett that will pay for our profligate overspending.
Zzzzzzzzz - A half-hour into Obama's SOTU speech and this is all boilerplate stuff that could have been spoken by any modern-age President. Yeah, let's teach our children and get some windmills.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Color me unsurprised - Hot Air: "Of course. Obama abandons plan to bring up Social Security reform in SOTU."

Remember how for months and months, whenever Obama administration officials were asked about deficit reduction or the national debt, the standard line was "The President has appointed a commission and he's going to let them do their job." What exactly was the point of the Deficit Commission if the critical recommendations are to be ignored?

Keep in mind that the decision to reform Social Security is the easy one. The program has an awful rate of return for younger workers and that's before the automatic benefit cuts starting around 2037. If we can't make a moral and fiscal argument for dragging Social Security into the new millennium, we'll never be able to reform Medicare which is a much, much bigger problem.

Extra - Weekly Standard: "Debt be not proud."

Flashback - Fox News: "Debt commissioners: Baby Boomers will crush Social Security, Medicare." Entitlement reform is the most expensive kicked-can ever.
Approaching irrelevancy - I had a class once that included a complimentary case study of the U.S. Postal Service and how they sort, organize, and ship millions of packages a day. But the further we move into the 21st century, the USPS just can't keep up with the digital revolution and it is losing a pile of money. WSJ: "Postal service eyes closing thousands of post offices."

The first step, I think, is to cancel Saturday deliveries. Also, I think an organization losing $8.5 billion a year should cut back on television commercials.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"I see the Bears are playing Green Bay on Sunday"

NY Times: "Bears and Packers: To call them Rivals is an Understatement." In other news, Zudock's going to freeze his keister off out there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

We're broke, let's spend more - Word on the street is that President Obama is going to ignore the overwhelming message of the last election that the deficit is a serious problem and call for more spending in the State of the Union address. Well, he's true to form. WSJ: "Obama to push new spending."

Extra - It's all about creating jobs.
Sign me up - Dana Milbank in the WashPost: "I'm declaring February a Palin-free month." I honestly don't understand the hubbub and/or furor over this woman. She had her shot at the vice-presidency and that's the closest she'll ever get to the White House. It's like America is obsessed with Geraldine Ferraro.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

No such thing as a free lunch - Over at Reason, Steve Chapman discusses the fantasy that Obamacare can offer limitless healthcare without passing some (read: significant) cost on to taxpayers in "Inoculating against real health care reform."
Pizza and Facebook - Hot Air links to a USA Today article with "Study confirms that college is pretty much a total waste of time." This dovetails nicely with this story from six months ago in the NY Times: "Share of college spending for recreation is rising."

Colleges keep stepping up marketing efforts that portray college life as leisure time with a dining commons. It's no surprise that students show up expecting to do keg stands.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Schadenfreude alert, Harper's edition

Disclaimer: I used to subscribe to Harper's magazine. Eons ago, it used to carry non-political articles that were interesting and engaging such as James McManus's account of his run in the 2000 World Series of Poker. But somewhere into the last administration, the magazine succumbed to Bush Derangement Syndrome and nearly every column, sidenote, and footnote seemed aimed at pushing a political viewpoint at a volume set to 11.

Which is fine, I guess, if you want to be a political magazine. But, very quickly, the magazine was a crushing bore, and Harper's liberal benefactor John McArthur was losing patience and money. According to NY Magazine's "Venerable lefties at Harper's divided by union," a staff shakeup triggered a union at Harper's, much to McArthur's displeasure:

MacArthur contested the staff's right to unionize. Staffers couldn’t help but chuckle at the irony: The staunch defender of unions, who in a 2009 Harper's piece called the UAW “the country’s best and traditionally most honest mass labor organization,” was now on the other side of the table as the "worst kind of factory owner," as one staffer put it to me.
Whoops. Looks like somebody was mugged by reality.
Ice, ice baby - Man, the roads were terrible today.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Page not found - Mashable: "35 entertaining 404 error pages." I like the one that says: "Congratulations, you broke the Internet."
The age of the baby boomer - Christian Science Monitor "How retirement is being reinvented worldwide": "People are working longer - out of necessity and choice - as the world undergoes one of the biggest demographic shifts in history."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

That dog won't hunt - I just found out that one of my favorite shows, the FX original Terriers has been canceled. Bad move, FX. The crime-drama-comedy had such a gritty and authentic feel to it - a shame to see it go.

And, yeah, it had low ratings. I understand FX, but so did "Cheers" after it's first season before it found an audience. Boo.
Noted slacker mooches off Dad's legacy one more time - Hey, Dad was a doddering old fool, sez Ron Reagan Jr. in his new book: "Pay attention to me!" Stay classy, chump.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Patriots hope to de-feet the Jets this weekend - If you're a fan of double entendres, New England Patriot Wes Welker made some weird references in a recent press conference: "Something afoot with Welker's answers?"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

National anthem sing-a-long

NPR has the story:
It just may make your day a little better. As you'll see and hear, 8-year-old Elizabeth Hughes was doing a great job singing The Star-Spangled Banner last week at a Norfolk (Va.) Admirals minor league hockey game when the microphone cut out with about 30 seconds to go.

And then ... the crowd comes to life and joins in. It's a nice moment.
Here you go:

Quote of the day - From Kevin Williamson on the Corner from his post "U.S. on the way toward losing AAA credit rating": "Note to Washington: if you thought the Tea Party looked like an angry mob, wait until you see what happens when Social Security checks start bouncing."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A very good memorial speech - President Obama was empathetic, evocative, and effective in his address at the University of Arizona in remembrance of the victims of the Tucson tragedy. He talked about the people lost and pointed out the heroes of the day, then made a "better angels of our nature" call to the nation. The only thing that was a little bit grating was the pep rally feel with whooping and whistling from the crowd; even in this Obama was composed and solemn with a gravity to match the occasion.
Solar energy goes dark and Massachusetts pays

From the Boston Globe: "Plant will shut after $58m in state aid."

Evergreen Solar Inc. will eliminate 800 jobs in Massachusetts and shut its new factory at the former military base in Devens, just two years after it opened the massive facility to great fanfare and with about $58 million in taxpayer subsidies.

The company announced yesterday that it will close the plant by the end of March, calling itself a victim of weak demand and competition from cheaper suppliers in China, where the government provides solar companies with generous subsidies.
Further down, we find that:

In exchange for the state’s help, Evergreen initially agreed to employ 350 people at the Devens plant for seven years.
If this were any other industry than clean energy, Bay Staters would be in their rights to wonder if they've been taken in by corporate scamsters. What I think is more likely is that the founders at Evergreen assisted by Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick put hope and environmental morality ahead of market research and business planning. And that's just fine when it's private investors or bondholders putting their money up for funding. Instead, Massachusetts taxpayers underwrote the clean energy dream to the tune of $58 million and 350 now-unemployed workers.
Half the states against Obamacare - Reuters: "Ohio becomes 25th state to contest healthcare plan."
Putting the "weak" in Newsweek - Minuteman: "Newsweek acquired by the Onion?!"
Wha? Who saw this coming? - Oh yeah, me. Fox News: "Baby boomers could force economic catastrophe."
Snow day - For the first time, I think ever, my company closed for the day due to the winter storm. Which was the right move because somebody would have crashed trying to drive in. So I'm home, waiting for the snow to stop so I can shovel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's double-plus-good - Via Hot Air here's "Only one way to rescue Social Security." I think the idea of private accounts has drawbacks but it has two great advantages: younger workers will gain a much greater return on investment and it keeps the federal government from hiding the true size of the deficit.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Dick Winters of Easy Company

The hero of "Band of Brothers" died last week at the age of 92; he had asked that announcement of his death wait until after his funeral. Some time ago, I read a book on management that defined two kinds of leadership: assigned and emergent. As the name implies, assigned leadership comes from a position or title. Emergent leadership, however, flows from how one gains respect and support from followers. Dick Winters was a leader among men and an example for us all.

And now, one of my favorite scenes from "Band of Brothers"

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Prayers up - For Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and all the other victims of the senseless shooting in Tuscon, Arizona. Information is trickling in about the shooter but he appears to be a garden variety nutcase.

Update (1/9) - Legal Insurrection: "Two sicknesses on display in Arizona."

More - Glenn Reynolds: "But those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America's political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder."

Friday, January 07, 2011

The willful suspension of disbelief will bankrupt us

If the stakes weren't so high, the argument over the CBO's latest scoring of Obamacare would be funny. The reality is that the estimations that Obamacare will reduce the deficit over time runs headlong against mathematics, common sense, history and the program's developing reality.

First, former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin reviews the math and concludes:
In short, there was never any reason to believe that the law reduced the deficit by roughly $140 billion over ten years. Starting two new open-ended entitlements without fixing the existing budgetary cancers just doesn’t work that way.
But then do you really need arithmetic when the "mother of all entitlements" is staring you in the face?
Of all the claims deployed in favor of ObamaCare, and there are many, the most preposterous is that a new open-ended entitlement will somehow reduce the budget deficit. Insure 32 million more people, and save money too! The even more remarkable spectacle is that Washington seems to be taking this claim seriously in advance of the House's repeal vote next week. Some things in politics you just can't make up.
One need only look at the consistent over-expansion of entitlement programs to see why Paul Ryan's tie is safe from digestion.

And then there's Obamacare's high-risk pools which are already costing way too much, despite low participation:
Montana is one of a few states in which the medical bills from those who have joined are huge. New Hampshire's plan has only about 80 members, but they already have spent nearly double the $650,000 the state was allotted in federal money to help run the program, said J. Michael Degnan, its director.
Remember what The Boston Globe remarked about Massachusetts’s continually cash-short Medicaid program? “The money, it seems, is never enough." If nothing else I think it's impressive that, despite the ultra-low enrollment, New Hampshire has managed to burn through a multiple of its allotted funds already. Dramatically under-used and way over-budget? That takes effort.
The Obama administration made estimations of low costs and high tax revenues that were little more than wishful thinking or willful deception to keep the program's ten-year cost under a trillion dollars. There is no way - no way - Obamacare will keep the budget from blowing apart.

Extra - Nice roundup from Jennifer Rubin.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Roger Federer makes a trick shot

Today's been a crazy day, so here's a bit of fun:

Fifty debt bombs - State governments are required to balance their yearly budgets and some of them are in real trouble as Megan McArdle notes in "Dire States."

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Sweet fancy Moses - Nancy Pelosi speaks: "Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go."

And guess who said this, long before America racked up a $14 trillion credit card bill: "America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership."

Monday, January 03, 2011

Giant, radioactive ants are the cause of all our problems - Victor Davis Hanson: "Raging against 'Them'."
Republicans move to repeal Obamacare with subtly-titled bill

Introduced to the House: "Repealing the Jobs-Killing Health Care Law Act."

Over at Real Clear Politics, Robert Samuelson writes that President Obama's social agenda stood foursquare against the economic policies that were needed to spur the economy and create jobs. This includes the health-care law:

The health care law raises hiring costs by requiring in 2014 that all firms with more than 50 employees provide health insurance or be fined. The law brims with complexities and uncertainties that make it hard to estimate the ultimate costs. Will firms with, say, 47 workers eagerly expand beyond 50 if that imposes all the extra costs? It seems doubtful.
Hey, man, Obama doesn't do consequences; he's all about intentions. And they're goooood.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Feed the engineers - George Will argues that, despite budget pressures, federal funding for science and engineering should not be attenuated. Here's an eye-opener: "Annual federal spending on mathematics, the physical sciences and engineering now equals only the increase in health care costs every nine weeks."
Don't let the door hit you on the way out - Boston Globe columnist has a "farewell to cronyism" article today, wishing longtime Bay State auditor Joe Denucci "Good riddance to old school." Hey, man, that guy worked hard during his 20-hour work weeks.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Working with a new Congress - Writing in the NY Times, Greg Mankiw offers President Obama advice on "How to break bread with the Republicans." A beer summit is recommended.
The day after yesterday - Predicting the weather is hard because it's been around for more than 100 years or something: "Eight botched environmental forecasts."
What passes for Very Serious commentary on the Left - I've been looking for the "next page" button or "more" on this Crooks & Liars post in response to this ABC News story "Baby boomers expected to drain Medicare." But instead it just cries out "pay attention to the lies" without isolating, much less refuting, a single one. The comments are about what you expect from the "reality based community" including sneering at Diane Sawyer and the requisite hatred for the GOP.

In response, I'll offer this: "Entitlements will consume all tax revenues by 2052." Wow, that looks serious. Very serious.