Category Archives: DownsizeDC

Delusional Downsize DC or Follow the Money

The founder of Downsize DC unfriended me because I dared to suggest that he should at least read this guy’s book. Apparently hiding from contrary opinions means that they have no power over you,

But we cannot ignore this corruption anymore. We need a government that works. And not works for the left or the right, but works for the left and the right, the citizens of the left and right, because there is no sensible reform possible until we end this corruption. So I want you to take hold, to grab the issue you care the most about. Climate change is mine, but it might be financial reform or a simpler tax system or inequality. Grab that issue, sit it down in front of you, look straight in its eyes, and tell it there is no Christmas this year. There will never be a Christmas. We will never get your issue solved until we fix this issue first. So it’s not that mine is the most important issue. It’s not. Yours is the most important issue, but mine is the first issue, the issue we have to solve before we get to fix the issues you care about. No sensible reform, and we cannot afford a world, a future, with no sensible reform. 

Okay. So how do we do it? Turns out, the analytics here are easy, simple. If the problem is members spending an extraordinary amount of time fundraising from the tiniest slice of America, the solution is to have them spend less time fundraising but fundraise from a wider slice of Americans, to spread it out, to spread the funder influence so that we restore the idea of dependence upon the people alone. And to do this does not require a constitutional amendment, changing the First Amendment. To do this would require a single statute, a statute establishing what we think of as small dollar funded elections, a statute of citizen-funded campaigns, and there’s any number of these proposals out there: Fair Elections Now Act, the American Anti-Corruption Act, an idea in my book that I call the Grant and Franklin Project to give vouchers to people to fund elections, an idea of John Sarbanes called the Grassroots Democracy Act. Each of these would fix this corruption by spreading out the influence of funders to all of us. 

TED2013 – Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

The reaction of  Jim Babka to this very reasonable counter-argument, the suggestion that government wasn’t actually the problem it was business manipulation of government which is the problem was a classic illustration of confirmation bias blinding someone to relevant facts. It is just too bad that libertarians and other small government types cannot understand that big business is as much or more of a threat as big government. That they are pawns of big business ideologically. 

Obamacare = Romneycare = Failure

Got an email today from one of my preferred activist efforts, concerning the effects of Obamacare, and the waivers being issued until they are phased out. DownsizeDC: “Americans Beg for Mercy in front of Unelected Bureaucrats” They reference an article at the Boston Globe, written by John Sununu (who clearly needs to take a class in creative writing. Talk about cludgy wordsmithing) that runs something like this;

Companies now face a September deadline to apply for protection. After that, they’re out of luck. According to the administration, without the special treatment, health care premiums for 3 million workers would have gone up by 10 percent or more. A note to social engineers of all parties: If you have to protect 3 million people from a brand-new law, it probably wasn’t very well written in the first place.

That this was an unintended consequence is clear from the fact that the law never contemplated a need for waivers in the first place. In a stroke of bureaucratic magic, HHS simply granted itself the power, and started dispensing the passes. Only when independent groups started pressing for transparency did things begin to shut down.

The broader lesson here is that the constant need for special waivers is symptomatic of poorly written public policy. It’s a signal that the cost of compliance is unreasonably high; the benefits are hard to measure; and either legislators or regulators have failed to do their homework.

If you want to go to DownsizeDC and send a message to Congress, by all means do so. Save all of us some money, get them to change the laws now, before we spend the next 10 years litigating a system that might work. Still…

I find this breathless hysteria about Obamacare to be a bit of a yawn. Is it bad law? Probably. It’s yet another over-long bill that doesn’t do what it claims to do, and wasn’t written or read by the legislators who passed it, or the executive who signed it (and who’s name is used to identify it) but the problem with the hysteria over Obamacare is that it is fundamentally the same as Romneycare (or a few other state level insurance systems) and the people who want us to be breathlessly terrified don’t seem to have a real problem with those other programs; in all likelihood because they were created by people from their party, the Republican Party.

When it comes to stories about the problems with the Health care system in the US, I found this article to be more enlightening;

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL candidate Tim Pawlenty was right. While he backed away from the nice term he coined — ObamneyCare — the health reforms enacted by then-governor Mitt Romney in 2006 and President Obama in 2010 have much in common, although both would deny it.

Their main strength is that more people get insured. In Massachusetts, the percentage is up to 98 percent, the highest in the nation. Obama projects that about 95 percent of people will be insured nationally in a decade. But both Romney and Obama punted on crucial issues of cost and deeper systemic reform.

and

Yet there is a real debate to be had on health insurance, though not between Romney and Obama. On one side, Republican conservatives want to turn government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid into vouchers. Citizens would get a flat sum. If the cost of decent coverage exceeded the voucher, well, good luck. This approach would certainly reduce government costs. It would also reduce care.

On the other side, Democratic liberals point to nations with national health insurance, where the efficiencies are such that everyone is covered for about 10 percent of GDP compared to over 15 percent (and rising) here. Sooner or later, as costs keep exploding, the real choice for America will come down to vouchers versus true universal health insurance. It’s too bad that this debate will be largely offstage next year.

From RomneyCare vs. ObamaCare

In a nutshell, none of the systems work as intended (related this information to you ages ago) and we’re going to have to re-constitute them into something completely different if we want them to work.

The real shame here is, we already wasted a year not-arguing over Obamacare (because we didn’t know what was in it until after it was passed) which was essentially adapted from systems that aren’t working in several states, and we’ll spend an additional several years not-arguing over systems that might work that could replace the systems that are bleeding this country dry. Let’s hope that someone with sense just does what needs to be done at some point, and let’s the rest of us know where we can get access to it.

Personally, I’m tired of the obstructionist political maneuvering, and would relish some real debate over what is really needed to establish universal access to preventative care; as well as some realistically priced health insurance that really did provide insurance for my health, and didn’t just pay my doctor bills each month.

Fascist Form Letters Rule the Day

Posted my thoughts on Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s form letter endorsement of federalizing Texas law enforcement here. At that time I thought John Cornyn (Texas’ other Senator) was savvy enough to understand not to send form letters endorsing legislation, to people who are on file as being opposed to the same legislation. Apparently I’m mistaken.

Campaign for Liberty, Downsize DC and EFFector all sent messages out requesting that we contact our representatives and express our desire that the PATRIOT ACT provisions be allowed to sunset, about the middle of February. I dutifully sent of a few lines of text that day;

Repeal the Patriot Act. Do NOT renew any of its provisions. Do not follow the House in this. Refuse to extend the Patriot act. This is the ‘patriotic’ thing to do…

Not my best writing, but I thought it was pretty clear my thoughts on the subject. Today, I get this message in the mail;

Dear Mr. Steele:

Thank you for your recent letter regarding efforts to strengthen our nation’s ability to investigate and prosecute terrorism while protecting our constitutional liberties. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important matter.

Recent events across the country, including in our home state of Texas, remind us of the real threat terrorists pose to our national security. The USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107—56) was signed into law on October 26, 2001, and contained specific provisions that enable the United States to carry out the War on Terror. This legislation broadened the authority of law enforcement officials to intercept wire, oral, and electronic communications and permitted them to share grand jury and wiretap information with intelligence, defense, national security, and immigration officials. Additionally, the USA PATRIOT Act enhanced border security by increasing the number of immigration inspectors, Border Patrol agents, and Customs Service personnel and authorized funds to purchase equipment that improves border security technology.

During the 111th Congress, Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division David Kris testified in support of renewing critical provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act. Renewing this important legislation ensures that law enforcement officials have the resources necessary to complete their goals and increases our nation’s security without compromising our civil liberties. As you may know, three key provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act were set to expire on February 28, 2011, and on February 15, 2011, the Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass the FISA Sunsets Extension Act (H.R. 514) and reauthorize these critical intelligence tools for three months.

I appreciate having the opportunity to represent the interests of Texans in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,
JOHN CORNYN
United States Senator

517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
http://www.cornyn.senate.gov

Please sign up for my monthly newsletter at http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/newsletter.

Well, at least his secretary knew how to do a mail merge. Still, I would have appreciated some feigned disappointment at being unable to comply with my request. Some heartfelt commiseration? But braggadocio about extending provisions of legislation they didn’t even read before they passed? Provisions which have been shown to have been abused, repeatedly, by the organizations entrusted with the enhanced powers?

Loved the invite at the end. Did you know, if you mail Senator Cornyn you get added to his list automatically? Going to start reporting him as a spammer shortly.

Who exactly do these people represent? It certainly isn’t me.

Senate 3-year PATRIOT extension thwarted

…By Rand Paul.

Now the fight shifts to the U.S. Senate, where Rand Paul is prepared to lead the battle to defend the Bill of Rights.

Last night, the Senate tried to sneak through a 3-year extension under unanimous consent, but Senator Paul prevented this by standing up and objecting.

(from a C4L e-mail broadcast)

Let’s see if he can prevail. Here’s a link for DownsizeDC’s campaign to repeal the PATRIOT act. Time to let your Senators know how much you want it gone…

https://secure.downsizedc.org/etp/campaigns/129

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in favor of federalizing Texas law enforcement

Downsize DC sent out an alert yesterday in response to the announcement by the Attorney General that he intends to enforce federal drug laws in California even if the people there vote to legalize Marijuana.

War on Drugs: How the Attorney General Will Waste Your Money and Trash the Constitution

Being the slacktivist that I am these days, I copied the content of the letter in the alert, and posted it as my own, changing the text to reflect my state instead of James Wilson’s. It went like this;

If California’s Prop 19 passes, it will mean the voters believe the War on Pot is unjust, ineffective, unworkable, and too expensive.

If Texas passed something like Prop 19, how would you react? Would you follow the will of the people? Or would you want the DEA to randomly terrorize law-abiding Texans?

Attorney General Holder wants to do the latter. If Prop 19 passes, Holder promises to “vigorously enforce” federal marijuana laws in California.

This would be a complete waste of my tax dollars! There won’t be enough DEA agents to effectively enforce the federal laws.

More importantly, most federal marijuana laws – as with most federal drug laws in general – violate the Tenth Amendment. This means that the fraction of pot growers and users who do get arrested in CA will be law-abiding citizens singled out arbitrarily or maliciously by the DEA.

Please speak out against Holder’s plan. Please do so before the election, so I know where you stand.

Cornyn’s mail server, being the mail server for the savvy politician that he is, just auto-responded that he got the letter. I’m sure he won’t have much to say before the election. Senator Hutchison though…

…Her office sent out a letter of a completely different nature. Her reply follows.

Dear Friend:

Thank you for contacting me regarding efforts to legalize marijuana. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

As drug use continues to rise in our country, especially among our youths, I believe we need to send a message that all illegal drug use is dangerous. We can win the war on drugs, but we will not do so by legalizing marijuana or encouraging its use for any purpose.

Researchers have found that marijuana use can adversely affect brain activity and the respiratory system, lead to increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and impair critical skills related to attention, memory, and learning. In addition, the harmful chemical in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been linked to low birth weight and impaired motor development in children whose mother used marijuana.

I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.

Sincerely,
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator

284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
202-224-5922 (tel)
202-224-0776 (fax)
http://hutchison.senate.gov

Dear friend. Such a personal response too. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Yes it’s a form letter, but it’s a form letter that her office felt addressed my concerns. Let’s parse this so that we understand what this response means.

First off, she says “we can win the drug war” a claim that is patently absurd based on the multi-decades long attempt to outlaw drug use, as can be demonstrated by the briefest perusal of the content over at CATO.org. To truly understand the magnitude of the folly we are engaged in, one need look no farther than the history that documents alcohol prohibition, and what a success that endeavor was. Which is why alcohol remain illegal to this day, right?

Then she goes on to list out the harmful effects of marijuana use, the claims of which are highly exaggerated, to say the least. Even so, the harmful effects of alcohol consumption are far greater, not to mention tobacco use. Good thing neither of those can be consumed legally, either.

All of this is beside the point that motivated me to write. While the drug warriors won’t admit it, the writing is on the wall; the War on Drugs is a failure. It’s all over but the crying. I’d like to limit the harm inflicted on the population at large by grandstanding politicians, greedy state and city police forces that see dollar signs every time they confiscate another families entire list of assets if they can only be shown to be dealing drugs, and the ignorant population that doesn’t read up on subjects that they think they have valid opinions on. (that’s right. If you disagree with me, your opinion is invalid. Have a Nice Day!) What motivated me to write was the news that the Federal government (those guys in Washington that our state leaders here in Texas are always whining about) is going to go out of it’s way to victimize Californians that dare to engage in legal activities within the State of California.

…And Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in favor of federalizing Texas law enforcement as well, apparently. If we dare to pass laws that the feds don’t like, that is. Time for a new Senator or two. Perhaps an entirely new Senate is in order. I hear-tell that there’s a movement afoot to repeal the 17th amendment. Perhaps it’s time to reverse that one, just like the one that was reversed and should have stopped all drug enforcement operations in the US. If only they had gone that far then.

Contesting Control

Got back from the polls a few hours ago. I voted Democrat this primary season, and I probably will vote Democrat in the primary as long as I live in Travis County. Pretending that a Republican stands a chance here (unless the Democrat is a complete idiot and doesn’t pay off his supporters) is to engage in wishful thinking.

So I voted in the Democrat primary, in an attempt to unseat as many incumbents as I could (not that it was very effective, it turns out) and because I would really like to see Obama face off against McCain. I think that might be a debate (if they finally do a debate this season) that would be worth watching. Especially if Ron Paul shows up as a third party candidate.

But what about voting for Ron Paul, aren’t I a supporter? The way I see it, there was more to be gained in throwing a vote behind Obama in an effort to shut out Hillary, than there was in voting for Ron Paul (sorry Dr. Paul) The wife won’t vote Democrat, so she cast the Republican vote this time. But Ron Paul is never going to win. He’s never going to win because the average voter knows he’s never going to win, and the average voter only votes for winners (just ask them, they’ll tell you) It’s not because he’s too honest, which is an excuse I’ve heard a number of times. It’s not because he’s too much on the fringe (the opinion of Jeff Ward, and many, many others) aligned with anarchists, whatever. The majority of the American population votes for who they think will win. A self fulfilling prophecy if I’ve ever heard one.

If we want to see a change in this country stemming from the ballot box, we’re going to have to convince the majority of voters that change is possible. In the meantime, there’s always Downsize DC.

Health Care Solutions

“There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.”
Robert Heinlein

Solutions time again.

I’ve done a bit of blogging on the subject of US Health Care problems recently, and I could go on. One of the CATO daily podcasts last week (State Health Insurance Mandates Raise Prices) highlighted problems with health care created by government intervention in insurance markets. Just another in a long list of government interferences in the marketplace that negatively impact the system; which they then tell you they can fix by interfering in the system to a greater extent. Another podcast, McCain and Obama on Health Care, points out that at least the discussion on health care will be about the right subject, cost, if the presidential race is between McCain and Obama.

[Hillary’s insistence on 100% insurance coverage is the wrong answer to an unasked question. Forcing people who don’t want insurance to pay for it is not a solution that any self respecting American should embrace. Massachusetts went that way already, and it is failing. Do we want to copy that failed practice at the federal level? Americans want to not have to worry about being bankrupted by an unexpected long term illness. That’s a cost issue, plan and simple]

There have been solutions that I’ve found compelling in the past. One of them, from Downsize DC, I’ve blogged on before.

Here’s another solution:

Congressman Ron Paul has introduced a bill that would solve these problems, immediately. His “Comprehensive Health Care Reform Act” (H.R. 3343) would . . .

  • Give you a 100% refund from your taxes of every dollar you spend on medical care, including insurance premiums.
  • Make it easier for your employer to deposit the money it now gives to the health insurance companies into a Health Saving Account that would belong to you
  • This money would come to you tax free — you could use it to fund your health care and your insurance premiums
  • This means your health insurance would belong to you, not your employer
    You would have the money to pay small medical expenses with your Health Savings Account, which would allow you to reduce your insurance premiums by buying a Major Medical Plan, instead of a Cadillac Plan
  • You would also earn interest on the money in your Health Savings Account, tax free — you would get this interest instead of the insurance companies getting it (collecting interest on premiums is how the insurance companies make their money — these profits could be yours instead)
  • Plus, you would become your doctor’s customer, instead of the government or your insurance company being your doctor’s customer
  • This would place the consumer in charge, creating competition that would lower prices and improve quality

Of course, neither the insurance companies nor the health care lobbyists want these changes, so you will have to fight for them.

read more | digg story

It’s ludicrous to think that the people who brought you 53.3 trillion dollars in unfunded Medicare and Social security debt can fix the health care problem by getting more involved in health care (especially when they are responsible for funding nearly half of our current health care expenditures) the most logical solution is to give the individual back the control of his health care, and let self-interest drive down the costs.

The action item can be found here; and dugg here.

Don’t even know what they’re voting for

Classic example of bureaucracy in-action:

Last week the Senate passed the Conference Report of the 137-page Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 2082). The big media story about the bill is its ban on waterboarding, which will apparently prompt a Presidential veto.

If so, President Bush would veto the bill for the worst possible reason, but it may give Congress a fresh start. The problem with H.R. 2082 is that it could just as well be called the Don’t Read the Bill Act. Or maybe, the Not Really a Bill Act.

You see, the bill authorizes funding for the federal government’s various intelligence agencies, but it doesn’t tell us the amount that will be spent. That’s “classified information.” Of course, we don’t expect an itemized list of the cost of every intelligence operation, but the people – and apparently, most members of Congress – aren’t even allowed to know the total cost of the bill. If there is a “national security” reason to keep that information classified, then “national security” can be the excuse to justify all kinds of corruption and abuses of power.

Why can’t Congress even know the total amount they’re spending on our behalf? Whose money is it, anyway?

And why would any self-respecting member of Congress permit this to happen?

Probably because this is their standard operating procedure. They normally don’t know what’s in the bills they pass. As long as government grows, they’re happy. As long as they can say they’re “protecting America” by passing bloated, secret intelligence bills, they can’t be bothered with the details.

read more | digg story

This is, of course, the latest salvo in the ongoing struggle to get Congress to Read the Bills. You might think they’d take the time to read legislation that they intend to pass into law; but as the above shows, they not only don’t read most of the bills, sometimes the bills don’t even contain verbiage sufficient to describe what it is they are voting on.

The blog entry over at DownsizeDC includes a detailing of the other bills passed by congress over the last two weeks, but most likely not read as well.

End the Inflation Tax

“Inflation has now been institutionalized at a fairly constant 5% per year. This has been determined to be the optimum level for generating the most revenue without causing public alarm. A 5% devaluation applies, not only to the money earned this year, but to all that is left over from previous years. At the end of the first year, a dollar is worth 95 cents. At the end of the second year, the 95 cents is reduced again by 5%, leaving its worth at 90 cents, and so on. By the time a person has worked 20 years, the government will have confiscated 64% of every dollar he saved over those years. By the time he has worked 45 years, the hidden tax will be 90%. The government will take virtually everything a person saves over a lifetime.”

— G. Edward Griffin

I actually beat DownsizeDC to the punch and promoted the End the Inflation Tax action item before they did by incorporating it into this previous post and digging it. Of course, I don’t have nearly the reach that DownsizeDC has but…

Well, Perry Willis’ blog entry on the Inflation Tax subject is here.

Victory at Sunset – Protect America Act is no more

Downsize DC sent out a notice earlier this week that I failed to blog on:

68 Senators violated their oaths of office

This is their oath:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.”

And they violated this oath (blatantly) by

They voted to pass S. 2248, a new law designed to replace the so-called “Protect America Act.” This bill violates the Bill of Rights . . .

* It permits the President to spy on Americans without a warrant.
* It grants retroactive immunity to tele-communications companies that collaborated with the Bush administration in previous warrantless spying, thereby creating an incentive for other companies to engage in similar crimes in the future (only Qwest Communications insisted on warrants).

Will this new, un-constitutional power, prevent future terrorist attacks? Of course not, nothing can do that, just as there is no law or power that could completely stop murders by domestic criminals.

read more | digg story

Kay Bailey Hutchison essentially bragged that this was what she was going to do in canned responses to my requests that PAA be allowed to sunset. Citing unnamed threats to national security she (like most conservatives) was all to willing to give up our freedom for the appearance of greater security.

At least she answered letters sent to her office. John Cornyn has never responded to a single request that I have sent him.

If only Texas allowed for a method to recall Senators from Washington, I’d be agitating for that right now. As it is I think it would be a crime to send either of them back to Washington. It was the job of the government to protect us from 9-11 in the first place, not remove our freedom as a consequence of their failure.


All is not dark on the subject of illegal spying on us by our government, with the duplicitous assistance of our telecommunications companies. Perhaps the House understands the Constitution, or at least the will of the people:

Speaker Pelosi announced the sunset of PAA. She pointed out that the government still retains all the powers it needs to spy on suspected terrorists under the old FISA law, which remains in place. She also talked about the need for the government, and the telecommunications companies, to operate under the rule of law.

read more | digg story

Goodbye Protect America Act; which is the next best thing to not passing it in the first place.

Some serious house cleaning is in order at the federal level. The problem is that the house cleaning needs to go deeper than those individuals who can be removed by the people through election. Don’t ask me how we achieve this goal; I only wish there was a tool suitable to the job at hand. I’ve often thought that anyone who draws a salary paid directly with taxes should be able to be fired directly by tax-payers. That would be a suitable tool. Don’t hold your breath on it’s being crafted any time soon.