taking inventory

“We have so much room for improvement,” she said. “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory … of how we are taking responsibility.” — Nancy Pelosi

House Democrats on Tuesday stopped a Republican plan to force a campaign finance inquiry that likely would have investigated several influential Democrats. It was the eighth time since late February that the Republican move was halted. …

The Republican resolution focused on a lobbying firm, PMA, which was raided by the FBI last year. The company’s political action committee records were carted off, along with files of some of its lobbyists.

In 2007 and 2008, Murtha, Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va. and Rep. Peter Visclosky. D-Ind., directed $137 million to defense contractors who were paying PMA to get them government business.

At the same time, the three lawmakers received huge amounts of political donations from PMA lobbyists and their clients. Murtha has collected $2.37 million from PMA’s lobbyists and the companies it has represented since 1989, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Visclosky has collected $1.36 million; Moran, $997,348. — AP

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that in 2008, nearly $4 million in no-bid Pentagon logistics contracts went to a Glen Burnie, Md., business owned by Robert C. Murtha Jr., nephew of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman. The nephew said he does not advertise his relationship to his uncle and the Pentagon. The Pentagon reportedly says Mr. Murtha did not apply pressure or have any say in hiring his nephew’s not-so-slyly named firm, Murtech Inc. We suspect he doesn’t have to. — Washington Times

That’s every aspect of your life.

Sandefur gets it right

This post on the Left’s dissonant support of sexual freedom by Tim Sandefur is great. He locates the central contradiction in the left’s support of individual sexual rights as contrasted with its total rejection of all other individual rights and offers a compelling diagnosis.

The answer is: historical accident. During the 1960s, natural rights arguments were heard most powerfully from the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, who associated themselves with the left. That injected the left with a rhetorical tradition that is powerfully effective. They aren’t able or willing to let that tool go. They often employ it in the most ridiculous ways (esp. environmentalism) but in the area of sexual freedom, they’re on solid ground arguing natural rights, even though it clashes with their view on virtually everything else.

Of course, if the Left’s support for sexual liberty is tactical rather than foundational, then we should expect that support to ebb with the daily tracking polls. Which, of course, is exactly what we do see. None of the major Democratic candidates for President supported same-sex marriage and all agreed to define marriage as between a man and a woman. Sandefur sees this and points out that the status quo is inherently untenable,

And so we’re left with a weird and totally unsustainable situation: the left, which rejects the principle of individual rights in virtually every other sphere, speaks with the most morally grand tones of the fundamental human right of sexual freedom. That situation can’t last. How can it be that a business license or a building permit is a mere government privilege, but a marriage license is a basic human right?

There are certainly arguments to be made about the centrality of sexual choice and the importance of sexual freedom and why those liberties deserve protections that economic liberties do not. But as Sandefur notes, those are not natural rights arguments; they are progressive arguments that treat sexual liberties as privileges granted by the state in furtherance of the state’s objectives. The left doesn’t often use that language to defend sexual liberty because… well because doing so would reveal the underlying truth: that the progressive commitment to sexual liberty is merely instrumental. If social engineering demanded restricting sexual freedoms (like criminalizing sexual reproduction) then sexual freedoms will be restricted. In the end, for the progressives, neither the business license nor the marriage license is sacrosanct.

Eventually, supporters of sexual liberty will discover the same kind of betrayal that supporters of economic liberty encountered on the right. If the progressive commitment to sexual liberty is merely instrumental, it is no less instrumental than the conservative commitment to free trade and economic liberty. The sad fact is that we have long moved past the point where any major political party or movement regarded individual liberty and autonomy with much respect or attention.

It will be interestingto see exactly how the next challenge to Proposition 8 is handled. With today’s ruling upholding the amendment. It appears that the only options are either yet another amendment to reverse what was reveresed (and another court challenge to attempt to reverse the reversal of the reversal of the original judicial reversal), or Califonria activists can try to take their fight to the feds. Given the current political climate and the, shall we say tepid support, that gay-marriage proponents have gotten from Obama, that route doesn’t see too promising. But who knows?

It would certainly be a pleasure to hear why gay-marriage should recevie protection as a fundamental right and incorporation through the 14th amendment, but why the second amendment should not be incorporated. If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, what should we imagine is the stubborn insistence on inconsistency? The bugbear of dullards?

Slipping slowly away

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, exactly which of the enumerated rights is our government interested in protecting?

Obama is expanding federal funding of religious organizations.

The govt. argued in opposition to the 2nd amendment in Heller.

Warrantless wiretaps continue apace, RICOH and drug laws have made a mockery of probable cause.

The court eviscerated the Fifth in Kelo.

In Harmelin v. Michigan, (1991), the Court upheld a life sentence without the possibility of parole for possession of 672 grams of cocaine.

The ninth is a joke.

The tenth is a charade.

So we’re left with the third, the sixth, and the seventh.

For now.

Incomprehensible

I came across this quote today,

With U.S. interest rates near zero; with American consumers too poor and indebted to continue spending wildly; and with demand plummeting around the world, governments have to step in and run up deficits as they spend on projects that create jobs, generate income and permit workers to buy products.

It’s from this article about the global financial crisis. I know, why do I bother clicking through? But let’s, just for fun, parse this line of reasoning.

The prime rates set by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board are as near zero as they can likely get. And yet, these low rates have done little to budge actual consumer or manufacturing lending rates as lenders, brutalized by high default rates, are skittish about throwing good money after bad. American consumers are indebted and scared about the long-term prospects for growth and demand has fallen.

The solution to terrible debt, record loan defaults, and plummeting demand. Borrow more, of course. “Running up deficits” to increase spending and “stimulate” demand is doing nothing more than pretending that demand hasn’t actually fallen. When tax revenue declines and consumer spending falls, that indicates a contraction in the economy.

Borrowing money from our children so that we can spend money to pretend that we know what we’re doing is not good policy.

But wait! There’s more,

In addition to flexible but coordinated regulation, governments should also impose a small tax on financial transactions, such as buying and selling stocks, bonds and currencies. Such a tax would accomplish two objectives: It would discourage speculation by increasing the trading costs, and, in the near term, the tax would raise funds to pay for the costs of the meltdown.

Investors are unwilling risk accumulated capital because of the risk involved in lending and trading in a collapsing economy. That’s, after all, the argument for running up deficits: the private sector won’t spend, so the government should spend. Guess what the market response to a tax on “financial transactions” would be? It would sure as shit discourage speculation. But you know what? That’s what investment and lending are; they’re forms of speculation. If the economy is tanking because we’re illiquid and debt-ridden, how does decreasing the potential profit from lending do anything to decrease consumer interest rates or increase liquidity?

Then there’s this:

For balance to be restored, two things must happen.

First, the United States—which has disproportionately served as the market for global exporters—must increase its exports, either through devaluation of the dollar (something dollar holders fear) or industrial policies that encourage exports (not of financial services, but of manufacturing), or both.

And second, export surplus countries, particularly China, must raise wages, expand social safety nets and increase domestic demand. China’s stimulus program includes first steps in this direction, and its proposal for a global currency would also help redress financial and trade imbalances.

That’s all? All we need to do is retool the largest economy in the world by devaluing its wealth (making all Americans much, much poorer) and then have that economy revert to a manufacturing model it hasn’t embraced for decades and make stuff to sell to everyone else who are all even poorer. This buy high, sell low kind of advice.

He’s saying that we’d all be better off if America made stuff to sell to China than we are now, when China makes stuff to sell to America.  All China has to do is “raise wages.” Which it will do, how? Not by selling stuff to poor, dollar devalued Americans, that’s for sure.

Whatever they do, it would have to happen in the face of rising debt and decreased speculation.

Does this really make sense to anyone?

Nature vs. Cat Parasites

This is so crazy bizarre, it’s probably true.

Cat Parasite Affects Everything We Feel and Do
Research Shows That a Certain Cat Parasite Affects Our Behavior and Mood

Kevin Lafferty is a smart, cautious, thoughtful scientist who doesn’t hate cats, but he has put forth a provocative theory that suggests that a clever cat parasite may alter human cultures on a massive scale.

The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, has been transmitted indirectly from cats to roughly half the people on the planet, and it has been shown to affect human personalities in different ways.

Research has shown that women who are infected with the parasite tend to be warm, outgoing and attentive to others, while infected men tend to be less intelligent and probably a bit boring. But both men and women who are infected are more prone to feeling guilty and insecure.