Archive for April, 2009

Despite crisis fad, sky’s not falling

With all the tools the Internet age has to offer that enable multifaceted, instantaneous communications on any conceivable topic, is it any wonder we perceive everything through the prism of a “crisis”? We flit from one “crisis” to another, with the average life span about one business week .

At the beginning of this month, because there occurred a couple of tragic shootings, we were thrown into another “gun crisis”; two weeks ago, it was the “piracy crisis”; last week, the “torture-memos crisis”; this week, the “swine flu crisis.” Next week, who knows — perhaps someone in some far-off corner of the world will claim to have contracted the bird flu again, and we will transition seamlessly to that crisis; or another peanut scare; or E. coli.

Far more often than not, most of these “crises” could be reduced to manageable proportions without getting our national pants in a wad.

Let’s start from this week. Mexico — a country with a far less …

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“Atlas Shrugged” Riding High

It was first published in 1957, and its author has been dead for more than a quarter century, but Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” is riding high once again. The once-and-future bestsellet occupies both the first and second spots on Amazon.com’s bestseller list for “Classic” works (representing two different editions of the book). For all of us who reject the Big Government policies of the two major political parties and of their two most recent advocate-presidents, and who remain deeply concerned for the survival of free enterprise and other indices of Freedom in the U.S., this is a small but hopeful sign.

As Yaron Brooks, head of the California-based Ayn Rand Institute correctly noted, a major factor accounting for the resurgence in “Atlas” is the fact that it has become clearer than ever in this current economic mess that government control of the country’s economy — which now includes concrete steps being implemented for the direct running of American companies and banks by …

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California Gun Decision Muddies 2nd Amendment Waters

It’s been less than a year since the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Heller decision affirming the principle that the 2nd Amendment does indeed protect an individual right to keep and bear arms, and that the right it thus protects is a fundamental right. The High Court last June clearly established: (1) that we — the people — possess an individual right to own firearms; (2) that this fundamental right pre-dated the Constitution (in other words, the 2nd Amendment does not grant us the right, it merely protects it); and (3) that a state government (or, in the facts of the case itself, the District of Columbia) cannot so restrict the right that it in essence nullifies it.

Now, in an April 20th decision, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (in a case out of Alameda County, California) has already muddied the 2nd Amendment picture clarified by the Heller decision. The circuit court did this by holding that the county government may prohibit firearms anywhere on property …

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Secession talk far from extreme

Although he later downplayed his remark, Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s use of the “S” word — secession — during one of the April 15 tea parties has focused attention on the growing gulf between the dramatic, unprecedented growth in the federal government’s power and spending, and efforts by individual states to maintain independent authority.
Any reference, however vague, to the notion that one of the 50 states might actually consider cutting the ties between it and Washington evokes howls of derision from the political establishment.

But the growing grass-roots sentiment that dramatic action is necessary to restore a semblance of balanced federalism in the country makes it likely such discussion will increase.

The fact that Perry also noted that some military veterans in the crowd at Austin might be “right-wing extremists” also reflected the growing chasm between government and citizens opposed to runaway federal spending and power.

The governor’s reference, …

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Republicans still leaderless in Congress

As a former Republican member of Congress, it was painful for me to watch current Republican Minority Leader John Boehner spar with George Stephanopoulos yesterday on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” If anyone still harbored a belief that the Republican Party possesses leadership at the congressional level, Boehner’s performance Sunday should disavow them of such optimism.

On issue after issue, Boehner’s responses to Stephanopoulos’ jabs were disjointed, vague and rambling. There were virtually no specifics put forward by Boehner, despite numerous openings provided by Stephanopoulos for the Republican leader to provide a counterpoint to the Obama Administration’s liberal agendas on matters such as healthcare, climate change, and energy policy. On healthcare, the closest Boehner could come to providing a plan to counter Obama’s government-controlled proposal, was to note that “we’re working on a plan.” Regarding carbon emissions and climate change, the Minority …

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‘Americas’ summit should hasten U.S.-Cuba moves

Following his announcement last week making changes to long-standing US restrictions on dealings between the US and Cuba, President Obama is likely to discuss such matters further — including the broader question of working to bring Cuba back into the mainstream of Western Hemisphere relations — during this week’s Summit of the Americas being held in Trinidad and Tobago. As opined in this blog last month, it is high time to begin unraveling the trade and diplomatic restrictions on dealings between the US and Cuba. To whatever extent such restrictions might have been appropriate when instituted nearly five decades ago, they simply are neither productive nor truly defensible today; especially considering the likelihood of a new generation of leaders set to assume control of the Cuban government in the near future.

The changes announced April 13th by the White House are modest in scope — making it easier for Cuban-Americans to travel to the island nation and to send money to …

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Pirate menace continues despite dramatic rescue

President Obama passed his first mini foreign-affairs crisis test — the hijacking of the American-owned Maersk Alabama and the kidnapping of its American skipper, Richard Phillips. The president authorized the military commanders on the scene aboard the destroyer USS Bainbridge to respond appropriately and with force if necessary; they did, and the U.S. citizen held hostage was saved. In deferring to the assessment by the on-site Navy officials, Obama exhibited a valuable understanding of the chain of command; and he appears to have resisted the often-fatal urge to micro-manage a crisis or to delay in the hope the situation will improve over time.

Of course, one mini-crisis does not define a presidency, and how the still-new president responds to the inevitable future military crises will determine his legacy and our safety as a nation. Early reactions from the Somalis indicate that the brand of piracy they practice will likely increase in violence and ruthlessness in the …

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Somali pirates — you lose

I’ll be writing more very shortly regarding the issue of dealing with Somali pirates, but I have just two words in reaction to the manner in which President Obama dealt with those who hijacked the Maersk Alabama and kidnapped its American captain — Well Done!

Armed pirates hijacking American-flag vessels and U.S. citizens are not simply “criminals,” and the “situations” they create are not simply “hostage situations.” Rather these are hostile, armed actions against the United States, and if we are to maintain credibility and have any hope of preventing further such terorist acts, we must act decisively, quickly, and if necessary, harshly. The Obama Administration showed that at least in this instance, it understands this concept (as Ronald Reagan did in 1985 and 1986, and as Gerald Ford did in 1975).

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TSA – bad to the bone

I admit — I’ve never been a big fan of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but every once in a while they take a small step in the right direction. Yet every time I get ready to compliment TSA on at least something it’s done that appears to be an improvement over what it did before, darned if the agency doesn’t turn right around and give us another reason to dislike it. TSA is on a roll these days.

First of all, it’s moving ahead with plans to install more and more full-body x-ray scanners at airports. If you haven’t read about these contraptions, you need to. Now, pretty much everyone is familiar with x-rays; you get ‘em at the doctor’s office and occasionally at the dentist. There’s a reason the technician giving you the x-ray leaves the room and hides behind a lead barrier before switching the machine on; the same reason the dental assistant puts a lead shield over you before taking x-rays of your teeth: x-rays are harmful! Yet here we have TSA …

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Dim bulb idea: Feds driving auto industry

Ronald Reagan once quipped — not altogether in jest — that the nine most frightening words in the English language were, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” To these nine might be added 11 words spoken by President Barack Obama in his March 30 news conference announcing the terms under which the federal government would now be effectively running General Motors and Chrysler: “Starting today, the United States government will stand behind your warranty.”

Boy, if there were ever a reassuring statement, Obama’s from last week would be right on the money — a statement signifying that an organization which has run up debt faster and to greater levels than any government in peacetime, and which is utterly unable and unwilling to balance its books, would be standing behind the warranty on my Dodge Magnum.

Such a statement by a president of the United States might be considered comical, were it not for the gravely serious ramifications of what Obama …

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