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Choosing Choice

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Public schools often get lousy report cards.

One big reason is that under the bureaucratically run government monopoly, teachers and administrators have no freedom to try fundamentally different approaches and be rewarded by consumers when they get it right. Educators must obey uniform and stifling standards.

Alas, too many of these public-school staffers are far from eager to shuck the mandatory mediocrity. They’re more worried about keeping their jobs and keeping captive their mis-taught and under-taught students. Such educrats oppose all policies — tax credits, vouchers, more autonomy for charter schools — that help students escape failing classrooms.

The educrats’ prejudice against educational freedom is being abetted by Obama’s “Justice” Department, suing to block school-choice policies in Louisiana on “civil rights” grounds. Obviously, no “civil right” is violated merely because a student attends a private school. But Obama’s lawyers want to make the issue about race regardless. Something about how it’s harder to maintain racial balance if too many children of a particular race leave public schools . . . even if fostering school choice makes it easier for all kids of whatever race to do so.

By Justice’s bogus standard of “justice,” then, actual justice — indeed, actual freedom and opportunity, even actual quality of education — must be shoved aside as irrelevant. What matters is only “racial balance,” no matter the injury to any student’s rights or well-being.

But preserving the jobs of educrats and preserving somebody’s idea of ideal demographics are not the purpose of going to school. The purpose is to learn.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Philosophy of the Fig Leaf

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

The temptation to cover up a bit of ugliness with the proverbial fig leaf will always be with us.

According to Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), that is just what the U.S. House did when it squashed Justin Amash’s amendment to the 2014 defense bill, replacing it with a weaker measure dredged up from the abyss known as Business As Usual by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas). Though 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats supported the Justin Amash (R-Mich.) position, the measure went down by twelve votes.

Business As Usual continues its reign in Washington; there will be no reining in of the NSA.

Or, as Amash said before the vote, “We are here to answer one question. Do we oppose the suspicion-less collection of every American’s phone records? When you had the chance to stand up for Americans’ privacy, did you?”

Amash’s amendment would have de-funded NSA’s collection of data of individuals not under investigation. Pompeo’s amendment merely reiterated current law about not targeting Americans in their surveillance — assurances that have as much efficacy as the rules limiting partisanship in IRS activities.

Behind Pompeo, and working against Americans’ privacy, was the Obama Administration, which went to great lengths Tuesday to make sure Amash’s attack on NSA surveillance wouldn’t “hastily” be put into action.

Administration spokespeople continued to press the figgy and leafy line about “welcoming debate” and “continuing to discuss” the issue of homeland surveillance.

Blah, blah, blah. No wonder Lofgren used the term “fig leaf.” The ugliness of Big Government surveillance remains. Congress has done nothing to curtail it.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

On the Wire

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

There’s something worse than “printing the myth”: printing government press releases and calling that “journalism.”

In those cases where folks in today’s news media do get their watchdog legs underneath them and yet their questions go unanswered, we citizens need be mightily concerned.

“The Justice Department did not respond to requests for comment,” the Washington Post reported yesterday.

What did they refuse to comment on?

Wiretap stats.

Spokespeople for the Obama Administration have been repeating incessantly that we ought not worry about them grabbing all our phone and Internet and financial information and communications. After all, they tell us, to actually delve into that mountain of metadata to gaze at your personal stuff, the Feds have to lug a rubber stamp across town to a secret court to get approval.

But, lo and behold: the Administrative Office of the United States Court released figures on the number of federal wiretaps in criminal investigations, showing that wiretaps had spiked up 71 percent in 2012. Such wiretaps by state and local police increased only 5 percent.

The average number of federal wiretaps between 1997 and 2009 were 550. But in 2010 the number soared to 1,207. The number went down to 792 the next year and then shot back up to 1,354 last year — a 147 percent increase over the 1997-2009 period.

The report further notes that “A single wiretap can sweep up thousands of communications.” For instance, one wiretap in Los Angeles intercepted more than 185,000 calls — nine of every ten deemed non-incriminating.

Why worry about governments having too much power? Governments have been known to use the power.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Drone Strikes at Home?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

The main controversy over the current administration’s drone strikes program has not been about committing acts of war without a declaration of war.

It has not been about committing acts of war within the boundaries of allied countries.

It has not been about killing innocents.

And it has certainly not been about the reliability of information that gets to the president’s desk that might cause him to order a drone strike.

No, the controversy has centered on the killing American citizens abroad with drone strikes. Some people favor it, since the main American targets are “traitors” and “terrorists.” But many others balk: Without a trial, how do we determine their guilt?

The usual response to that? “This is war!”

But no war has been declared. And, ahem, our side often blows up people far away from any battlefield and in allied territory . . . including a 16-year old American citizen killed in Yemen for being related to his father, Anwar al-Awlaki.

This, however, is just the tip of the enormity. The language from the folks in the administration suggests that borderlines mean nothing to them. Which raises a big question: “What about within our borders?”

The administration has been evasive.

This disturbs Sen. Rand Paul. “What I’m asking is about drone strikes on Americans, on American soil. The president will not answer that he cannot do this. In fact, he seems to be asserting that he can do this; all he’ll say is he doesn’t intend to do this.”

Sending drones to kill foreigners, innocents as well as enemies, on allied soil, in secret, without any method of accountability, is the behavior of a rogue nation. To claim the same power  on our own soil? That’s tyrannical.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Power-Grabbing In Recess?

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

A recent court decision has slowed—dare we hope, stopped?—the erosion of an important check on executive power. This is the constitutional provision that the president’s appointment of certain high officials be subject to Senate approval.

Trevor Burrus of the Cato Institute reminds us that presidents have sought to circumvent the advise and consent requirement since the days of Warren Harding.

The Constitution enables the president to make appointments when the Senate is in recess, i.e., between sessions. (In the days of the Founders, that hiatus lasted many months.) Starting with Harding, though, presidents began making appointments during so-called intra-session “recesses,” or breaks within a regular session. These “recesses” were as brief as ten days by the time we got to Clinton and Bush II.

In 2007, the Senate began conducting brief pro forma sessions within these “recesses” to prevent appointments from being made without its consent. Last year, President Obama counter-moved by declaring that he had authority to determine what constitutes a session. On this basis he made several appointments sans the Senate’s consent.

The DC Court of Appeals has now ruled the maneuver unconstitutional. “The power of a written constitution lies in its words,” writes Chief Judge David Sentelle. “When those words speak clearly, it is not up to us to depart from their meaning in favor of our own concept of efficiency, convenience, or facilitation of the functions of government.”

Do presidents sometimes find the Constitution inconvenient? Too bad.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Death by a Thousand Non-Cuts

Friday, December 14th, 2012

As I write this, the United States of America is $16,275,179,205,442 in debt. By the time you read this, we’ll have piled up millions more.

Much debt is of recent vintage. When George W. Bush became president in 2000, the national red ink totaled $5.7 trillion. In eight years, Dubya nearly doubled it to $10.6 trillion. Since his 2008 election, President Obama has far outpaced Bush, sinking us another $5.3 trillion in debt in just half Bush’s time.

And, by continuing to run yearly deficits of over $1 trillion, we’re digging the hole deeper at top speed.

For all the hysteria over draconian cuts, forced at the so-called fiscal cliff, those somewhat slippery savings would at best amount to about 10 percent of our yearly deficit, leaving us spending 9/10ths of a trillion dollars we don’t have.

In the “other cuts” department, the Obama Administration had been supporting paltry reductions to federal Medicaid spending of $17.6 billion over ten years (that’s less than $2 billion a year), but just flipped its position. Why? State governors are deciding if they can afford to take part in Obamacare’s massive Medicaid expansion to cover those earning up to 133 percent of the poverty line.

Not content to spend recklessly alone, the Feds picks up the entire tab of new Medicare recipients’ first three years. After that, Washington pays 90 percent and the states pay 10.

States are wondering how they’ll come up with that additional 10 percent — seven governors have already declined to join in the spending program. No one in Washington has given a second thought to paying the 90 percent.

They figure they can always raise taxes.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Saving the World

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Tonight, President Obama will address the nation — perchance to explain the parameters, if there be any, to our nation’s military intervention in Libya. Certainly, no one else in his administration has yet successfully done so, and not for lack of babbling on.

“The bottom line and the president’s view on this,” explained Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough on CNN, “is it’s important to bring the country along.” (Gee, thanks.) “Obviously the president, ah, is solely, ah, has this, ah, responsibility to deploy our troops overseas. . . .”

“We would welcome congressional support,” offered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on ABC’s This Week, “but I don’t think that this kind of internationally authorized intervention . . . is the kind of unilateral action that either I or President Obama were speaking of several years ago.”

A long, long time ago, there were no “humanitarian bombing” campaigns. Had such a cause been proposed, it would have been called war. Our president would have had to not only phone a couple congressmen to chat them up, but actually secure their votes on a declaration of war.

As we wade into our third war in the Middle East, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says, “No, I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States.”

Whether you are a dove or a hawk, Republican or Democrat or sane, how is it working out for us that one man can so easily decide to embroil 300 million Americans in war?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.