Thursday, June 26, 2008

2nd Amendment Lives

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

How disturbing is it that the Supreme Court was one vote away from taking away one of our constitutional rights? Only 5 out of the 9 justices agreed that the 2nd Amendment means what it says and declared the D.C. gun ban to be unconstitutional.

Justice Scalia wrote for the majority that they take “seriously the concerns raised by the amici who believe that prohibition handgun ownership is a solution” to gun violence. However, “the enshrinement of constitutional rights necessarily takes certain policy choices off the table.”

From National Review Online: "Some have alleged that this ruling is merely judicial activism from the right. Judicial activism, however, entails going beyond what’s in the Constitution — 'finding' new rights, or stretching words past their plain meaning."

It is the Supreme Court's responsibility to decide on the constitutionality of a law or policy, not whether the policy is a good one or a bad one (although one could argue that there is not a shred of evidence that gun control laws in D.C. lowered crime rates). The Bill of Rights says "the people" have the right to keep and bear arms. Therefore, government can't take away this right no matter how strongly they feel about the relationship between gun ownership by law abiding citizens and gun crimes.

The Supreme Court did not say that there shouldn't be reasonable restrictions on this right. Felons and the mentally ill can be denied this right. The 2nd Amendment probably does not include the right to a surface-to-air missile. However, the individual right to own a firearm "shall not be infringed."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Judicial Activism

Justice Kennedy sided with the liberal Supreme Court Justices in a 5-4 ruling, striking down a Louisiana law allowing the death penalty for child rapists. Whether or not you favor the death penalty in this situation (or at all) is not the point. There is no constitutional ground for this decision. These justices didn't like a law put in place by the people of Louisiana, so they issued a decree to force their view upon Louisiana and the rest of the country. Kennedy wrote that "the death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child." According to you! The people of Louisiana feel otherwise:

"The opinion reads more like an out-of-control legislative debate than a constitutional analysis," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican. "One thing is clear: The five members of the court who issued the opinion do not share the same 'standards of decency' as the people of Louisiana."

According to these justices, the constitution prohibits the execution of child rapists. I wonder if the right to kill unborn children is in the same section.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Obama and McCain on Energy

With $4 gasoline, energy policy is shaping up to be a key issue in the presidential campaign. The differences between Obama and McCain could hardly be greater.

McCain favors addressing our oil supply by increasing environmentally responsible domestic off shore drilling and by reducing the red tape that has kept anyone from building a new refinery here in the last 30 years. McCain also wants to build 45 new nuclear plants by 2030 and yesterday he announced his plan for a $300 million prize for developing advanced battery technology.

Obama repeats the Democratic mantra "we can't drill our way out of this." I guess we should just stop drilling then. Would 75 billion barrels of our own oil in ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf end all our energy problems? Of course not, but increased supply will lower prices. ANWR alone could supply the equivalent of all the oil we import from Saudi Arabia. Obama promises to side with the environmental wacko groups and continue to prevent more drilling, refineries, and nuclear power. Obama also continues to support the disastrous policy of providing huge subsidies for corn-based ethanol (can you say special interests?) that have caused food prices to sky rocket. Current food prices are very hard on the world's poor and they are causing the destruction of South America's rain forest to accelerate, as people burn down the forest to plant corn. John McCain opposed our ethanol policy even in Iowa during the primaries, while Obama continues to promote one of our worst energy policies ever. The candidate of "change" refuses to budge from the failed policies of the past.

The main difference between the two candidates' approaches is that one is based on promoting economic growth, while the other is focused on depressing demand for energy. Liberals like high energy prices because they lower demand for energy. Energy utilization, whether it's using coal, nuclear, or fossil fuels, is their enemy. However, we need energy to run our economy, the cheaper the better. Wind, solar, and ethanol are not competitive with other sources of energy. Therefore, they require government subsidies (our tax dollars) to even exist. Using inefficient energy sources slows our economy by making energy more expensive that it needs to be.

If energy is scarce, big government types will argue for greater government intervention to provide "equitable" distribution of energy. For example, last week House Democrats argued for nationalizing the nation's oil refineries.

John McCain's positions are well to the left of what I believe is best for America. His cap and trade proposals will not help our energy problems and although he supports more off shore drilling, he has yet to call for drilling in ANWR. However, he has some good ideas and Obama's commitment to ethanol and environmental special interests (as well as a knee-jerk liberalism) stand in the way of reasonable energy policies.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Royal We

The band performed for the first time last night at a party at Rudi's house. Tentatively titled "The Royal We," we managed to get through our 12 cover songs without being booed off the stage, er, living room. I play bass on all the other songs, but I picked up the six string for the only song available on Youtube just yet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Unemployment and the Minimum Wage

Unemployment spiked up .5% to 5.5% for May. However, unemployment compensation claims are still near historical lows. So if people aren't losing their jobs, how does unemployment spike? The answer is that people who weren't looking for jobs in April but began looking in May are having a hard time finding a job. That would be high school seniors, dropouts, and college kids looking for summer work, in other words, low skilled workers.

As you might recall, our benevolent Democratic legislature increased the minimum wage from $5.15/hr. to $7.25, legislation that went into effect this year. However, not all businesses can afford to take on new workers at the higher wage. Higher wages mean higher prices, which drives down demand for products and services, and as a result, the demand for labor. Some people make more, but many others get no job at all. Despite their good intentions, the Democrats have actually screwed over low-skilled workers. Common sense should tell us minimum wage increases are certain to hurt employment. Otherwise, why stop at $7.25? Why not a minimum wage of $50 an hour? Wouldn't that help low-skilled workers?

Free market economists have warned for years that increasing the minimum wage causes higher unemployment among low skilled workers. Consider Milton Friedman's arguments from his classic book Capitalism and Freedom:

Minimum wage laws are about as clear a case as one can find of a measure the effects of which are precisely the opposite of those intended by the men of good will who support it. Many proponents of minimum wage laws quite properly deplore extremely low rates; they regard them as a sign of poverty; and they hope, by outlawing wage rates below some specified level, to reduce poverty. In fact, insofar as minimum wage laws have any effect at all, their effect is clearly to increase poverty. The state can legislate a minimum wage rate. It can hardly require employers to hire at that minimum all who were formerly employed at wages below the minimum. It is clearly not in the interest of employers to do so. The effect of the minimum wage is therefore to make unemployment higher than it otherwise would be. Insofar as the low wage rates are a sign of poverty, the people who are rendered unemployed are precisely those who can least afford to give up the income they had been recieving, small as it may appear to the people voting for the minimum wage.

The people who are helped are visible... The people who are hurt are anonymous and their problem is not clearly connected to its cause.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Friends with Felons

Is it just me or has the national news media ignored Tony Rezko's multiple convictions yesterday? Rezko was possibly the single greatest force in establishing Obama in politics. He was convicted yesterday of 16 out of 24 counts of fraud and money laundering. Rezko steered government contracts in return for kickbacks and campaign contributions, masterminding the "pay to play politics" that are so common in Illinois government.

Obama has portrayed himself as someone above the usual politics, a reformer even. Yet when he was a state senator he had a choice to make. He could have aligned himself with the Democrats trying to clean up state politics, but instead he chose the dark side of Rezko and Gov. Blogojevich. His land deal with Rezko shows he has no problem with dirty money and dirty politics.

In 2005, the Obama family found a nice Georgian mansion they liked in Chicago. There was an adjacent lot also for sale from the same seller. Obama liked the property and wanted some of the adjacent lot, but he didn't really feel like paying full price. So he contacted his buddy Rezko (they have been friends since 1990). Obama closed on the house and Rezko on the lot the very same day. However, Obama got a $300k discount off the asking price (he paid $1.65 million), while Rezko paid full price ($625k) for the empty lot. Hmmm. Then, last January, Obama paid Rezko $104,500 for a strip of his lot to increase the size of his yard. Hmmm. Making matters worse, Obama knew that Rezko was under investigation by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald when he made the second deal. Obama ran to Rezko when every other Illinois politician was running away.

Obama was perfectly willing to accept Rezko's dirty money to advance his career. The extent of the problem will probably never be known, but Rezko and his cronies gave at least $200,000 to Obama's campaign (Obama is giving $40,000 of that to charity) and raised much more using pay to play tactics that screw the people of Illinois. Obama took money time and time again from Rezko, while Rezko's low-income housing projects left poor African-Americans in Obama's district without heat in the brutal Chicago winters. Obama even wrote letters supporting Rezko's attempts to get millions in bonds from the city for these slums. I guess if someone's raising millions for your campaign and giving you a helping hand with your home purchases it's a little easier to turn a blind eye. This is the change we're supposed to believe in?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Death Cab Rocks Millenium Park

Sarah and I saw Death Cab For Cutie play Pritzker Pavilion in Millenium Park last night. Severe thunderstorms were predicted, but that didn't keep a sea of people from showing up. Lucky for us, we didn't get a drop of rain. I joined the Death Cab fan club to get access to good seats, so we were in the 13th row (and for once, I took this picture insteading of stealing one off Google images).

Rogue Wave opened and they sounded really good, kind of like a more rock and roll Death Cab/Shins sound. Death Cab played for about an hour and 45, getting to almost all my favorites from all their albums. Ben Gibbard sounded great, his choir boy voice sounded exactly the same as on the albums. They played 4 or 5 songs from Narrow Stairs, the new album. In my opinion, Narrow Stairs is good, but not great. But then again, I'm usually overly critical of new albums by my favorite bands and then they grow on me.

Anyway, it was a great show. If you don't already own them, I highly recommend Death Cab's previous two albums, Plans and Transatlanticism, as well as Give Up by the Postal Service (Ben Gibbard side project).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Judicial Activism

In the comments on my previous post, I stated that my biggest problem with the left is how they have rejected and abandoned the Constitution in their appointment of activist judges. A reader challenged me, citing several examples of where he thought President Bush had acted in an unconstitutional fashion. There will always be disagreement on the handling of various issues in every administration. In addition, President Bush is not synonymous with conservatism. He is conservative on some things but is certainly not a conservative (although he's done a good job nominating Supreme Court justices, not counting Harriet Miers). My point is that the judges nominated by Democrats are almost always of the opinion that the Constitution is a “living and breathing” document and should change as the times change, while conservatives want judges that will stick to the Constitution when making their rulings and abstain from advancing any ideological agenda. This is anathema to the left, who want judges that will rule in a way that advances liberalism and big government.

In recent confirmation hearings, current Chief Justice John Roberts was asked by Chuck Schumer (D-NY) if he would “be for the little guy.” Roberts responded, “If the Constitution says that the little guy should win, the little guy’s going to win in court before me. But if the Constitution says that the big guy should win, well, then the big guy’s going to win.”

The left have rejected the view held by Justices Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito that a Supreme Court Justice’s responsibility is to uphold the literal meaning of the Constitution and the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Instead, liberal justices make it say whatever they want it to say and call those practicing judicial restraint “extreme.” If liberal justices don’t like legislation passed by elected members of our government, they will vote to overturn it, regardless of what the Constitution has to say on the issue. The most appalling example being Roe v. Wade, in which laws against abortion were ruled unconstitutional, although you’d be hard pressed to show me which section of the Constitution gives women the right to kill a baby just as long as its head is still inside the womb.

Liberal justices will go to great lengths to justify their rulings. Take the Weber case, for example. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal for employers "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race." Brian F. Weber (white male) sued his employer after he was denied admission to a training program although blacks with less seniority were admitted. Justice William Brennan, writing for the majority, felt that the “spirit” of the Act should be followed, not the literal meaning. The Supreme Court ruled against Weber, citing the "primary concern" of the Civil Rights Act for "the plight of the Negro in our economy." Justice William Rehnquist, writing the dissenting opinion, compared this explanation to the escapes of Houdini.

This is called judicial activism. Fidelity to one’s role is a value lost on the left. In their wisdom, the founders knew our republic would need checks and balances. Activist judges are not just acting as legislators and rejecting the role assigned to them in the Constitution, they are acting as tyrants. There are no checks and balances for an activist court. As Mark Levin says in his excellent book on this very subject, Men In Black, “As few as five justices can and do dictate economic, cultural, criminal, and security policy for the entire nation.”