Grand Jury Sins

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the most important jobs of the informed citizenry is to push back against government excesses. All governments– indeed, all bureaucracies– are inclined to grow fat with power and reluctant to relinquish either the money that they collect or the control that collects around them. It is their nature.

That doesn’t mean that government is evil or only does evil, only that the balance of power should always tip in the favor of the citizens. Government employees and politicians should always be made to be aware that they serve at the whim and will of the people. Protect the people and serve them well, and be safe in your job; serve yourself and you’ll soon need to be looking for a new line of work.

Sadly, it’s damned hard to fire government employees (whose jobs are not only safe, but they have better benefits and pay than their civilian counterparts), and politicians at the national level enjoy retention rates that are ridiculously high (and approval rates that are similarly low).

Gnaw on that fact for a bit.

So, as citizens, we keep rewarding failure at the highest level with more pay, perks, power, and job security. The failures of the United States are not the fault of the political class; they are the fault of the citizenry that refuses to do its job. We have become a trivial people given to worry over irrelevant social policies while our economy continues to falter and the politicians become ever more powerful.

Which is a long-winded prologue to this story of why government, at every level, must be held accountable for their failures and citizens must be protected from their excesses.

Grand juries are supposed to protect us from false allegations, but the old saying that prosecutors could get a grand jury to “indict a ham sandwich”reflects the reality that most fail on that front. Instead, as this study from the Cato Institute explains, they’re often used to harass and intimidate.

Read it all and remember: it’s your job to push back against the excesses of government. At every level.

Vote wisely in the upcoming elections.

A Little Summer Music: bentcousin’s “DIZZY”

Don’t know what it is about this song, but I’m really enjoying it right now.

Not so Quick Read of the Day: Foreign Policy’s Fragile State Index

Every year, Foreign Policy publishes their Fragile State Index (although it was previously called the Failed State Index). This is precisely what it sounds like: an analysis of the stability of nations around the world.

For anyone interested or concerned with global politics, this is must-read material. It’s an important view of where conflict and strife not only currently exists, but where it could rise and overwhelm nations and their neighbors. Beyond the numerical index, they always have editorial surrounding the rankings to give useful insight.

Highly recommended.

ACA Jokes Just Keep Coming

If laughter is the best medicine, then the whole goal of Obamacare must have been to kid us all the way to good health. Because the reality of the poorly conceived plan is absolutely hilarious!

In March 2010, Obamacare was about to be voted upon by the House of Representatives, and the Democrats were in the process of deciding whether to ignore public opinion at their peril.  At that time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that Obamacare would cost $938 billion over a decade and would reduce the number of uninsured people by 19 million as of 2014 (with a reduction of 1 million prior to 2014 and 18 million in 2014 alone).  Unimpressed, the American people overwhelmingly opposed the intrusive overhaul — with 20 of 21 polls taken that month showing it to be unpopular, most of them by double digits. The Democrats willfully passed Obamacare anyway and lost 63 House seats that November.

Two years later, the Supreme Court declared Obamacare’s coercive Medicaid expansion to be unconstitutional as written, and the CBO adjusted its projection for the number of uninsured accordingly.  Itprojected that Obamacare would reduce the number of uninsured by 14 million as of 2014 (2 million before 2014 and 12 million in 2014 alone), at a 10-year cost of $1.677 trillion — or $739 billion more than the 2010 projection.  (This February, the CBO projected that Obamacare’s 10-year cost would eclipse $2 trillion.)

Bwahahahahahahahhahah—doh!

I think I pulled a muscle…

Has the World Changed or Have We?

When I was around 8 years old, my parents took me to Disney World. My Disney vacation went thusly: we walked into the Magic Kingdom, my dad checked my watch, he gave me a bit of money for food and drink, and then we went our separate ways. We met back at the front of the park at the end of the day, and I had enjoyed a wonderful day. Aside from the fact that I don’t have much in the way of family memories from our family vacations, I had a great time. I lost count of the number of times I rode Pirates of the Caribbean and Magic Mountain. I probably enjoyed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea nearly as many times. When it rained, I found shelter, had a soda, and waited until I could start riding the rides again. By the time I was 9, I was a full time latch-key kid (and, just a few years later, having a handgun in the house saved me from a home intruder– but that’s a different story for another day). Does that constitute criminal behavior on my parents’ part? Did they deserve to be jailed for “abandoning” me? I certainly don’t believe so, but times have changed.

Here are the facts: Debra Harrell works at McDonald’s in North Augusta, South Carolina. For most of the summer, her daughter had stayed there with her, playing on a laptop that Harrell had scrounged up the money to purchase. (McDonald’s has free WiFi.) Sadly, the Harrell home was robbed and the laptop stolen, so the girl asked her mother if she could be dropped off at the park to play instead.

Harrell said yes. She gave her daughter a cell phone. The girl went to the park—a place so popular that at any given time there are about 40 kids frolicking—two days in a row. There were swings, a “splash pad,” and shade. On her third day at the park, an adult asked the girl where her mother was. At work, the daughter replied.

The shocked adult called the cops. Authorities declared the girl “abandoned” and proceeded to arrest the mother.

As I said: times have changed. Is the world that much more dangerous? Or are our children that much more vulnerable? Or have we just lost our sense of context and reasonableness? I actually don’t know the answer to that question, but it seems like an overreaction.

What my parents did with me, I wouldn’t do with my own kids, but it isn’t necessarily because I’d be worried about their safety. It’s because I would want to be sure that I had memories with my children.

Quick Read of the Day: Obama and the New Global Instability

Over at Commentary, a quick little article about President Obama’s failure on foreign policy. A tidbit:

Mr. Obama said that if elected his approach would be characterized by “smart diplomacy.” The result would be that he would “remake the world” and “heal the planet.” And during the first summer of his presidency, Mr. Obama said his policies would usher in a “new beginning” based on “mutual respect” with the Arab and Islamic world and “help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East.”

Some new dawn.

President Obama has not only not achieved what he said he would; the world may well be, as Senator John McCain put it this weekend, “in greater turmoil than at any time in my lifetime.” Mr. Obama’s role in this turmoil depends on the particular case we’re talking about, but it’s certainly the case that (a) his policies have amplified and accelerated some of the problems around the world while failing to mitigate others and (b) measured against his own standards, the president has failed miserably.

And it was all utterly predictable. That’s the hell of it.

I find that my commentary is becoming increasingly bitter. I don’t blame our president at all for following his own nature or for being precisely the politician that I fully expected he would be. No, I blame my fellow citizens for electing him twice to this position, and for leaving our nation open to him. While we debated the trivial (free contraceptives are, truly, trivial in comparison to our economy, the number of healthy Americans who remain jobless, and the dangers of an unsettled world political order), we elected a man who was a measurable failure as president. A failure in nearly every meaningful way.

Digital Decrepitude and the Folly of Human Behavior

A quick and interesting article about abandoned digital spaces like Second Life.

Removed from organic decaying processes, the only ruins in this world, including simulacrum of piles of dirt and construction vehicles, are ones that have been deliberately built and placed there by a designer. But despite its empty spaces, the world still feels full of possibility, perhaps specifically because it’s all still standing strong, so many years on. It’s not abandoned; it’s simply waiting.

In the real world, we can at least imagine that we are creating permanence; in the digital world, that pretense is impossible for a reasonably rational mind and possible only for the delusional. What always amazed me was that folks put so much faith in the meaning of those spaces– invested so much of their lives and energy into building virtual spaces whose effects are even more temporary than those structures that we build in the real world.

Kind of like blogging.

Well, Yeah: The We Hate Putin Edition

I don’t think too many people will find this surprising:

Russia’s global image is increasingly negative, according to a nsurvey from the Pew Research Center.

This is despite Russians believing that President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine would improve the country’s reputation abroad.

I do find it a little disconcerting that Greeks don’t seem to mind Russia’s recent belligerence, though.

As I’ve been saying for years: Russia is not our friend. It’s good to see that most folks agree.

Musical Moment: Fat Freddy’s Drop, “Wandering Eye”

Because we like music, here’s a little happy something for mid-day.

No One Wants to Pay for the Free Stuff

Hide Our Heads

Apparently, we can’t handle the truth…

What to take from this Reason article wherein we find that millenials are deeply cynical about government, believe it to be bloated and inefficient, and would like to see it spend less money while at the same time wanting access to free health care and a guaranteed “living wage?” Probably nothing earth-shatteringly huge, except that as long as someone else is footing the bill, we all want all of the “free” services that we can get.

“Would you like a Ferrari?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like a Ferrari even if it means that you’ll have to pay for it, heavily, for the rest of your life.”

“Well, when you ask that way…”

But when you’re convinced that someone else always owes more taxes (a misguided sense of “fairness”), then there is always someone else to pick up the tab. The conversation about green energy is similar.

“Would you like all energy to be generated through clean, renewable sources?”

“Yes.”

“Would you like all energy to be generated through clean, renewable sources even if it doubles your current energy bill?”

“Well, when you ask it that way…”

Of course, this ignores all sorts of subsidies and market-distorting realities that mean few of us know the actual cost of most of the staples in our lives (farm subsidies, energy subsidies, unequal tax and regulatory burdens on a variety of industries…) so what we actually pay for our energy, food, medical care, and Ferraris is anything but transparent. While transparency would be nice, what we have is such distortion that our supposedly free market is more like a pool where some bits are a tad murky and others are utterly opaque.

But here’s the thing: when it comes to politics, we usually stop at that first question and answer set. We rarely step back to truly understand the cost of our legislation and our expectations. Why would we imagine folks would make rational choices when they aren’t actually given enough information (or that information is so obscured as to be indecipherable) to choose rationally?