"In Snowy Syracuse, a December That’s Whiter Than Usual" and wintry Britain

From today's NYT, a story on our neighbor to the north. Global warming, anyone?

And from The Telegraph and Daniel Hannan, whom I love (must be the British accent):

George Monbiot: This cold weather is caused by – you guessed it – global warming!

Oh, the weather outside is frightful...

Apparently, Britain is in a sort of wintry salient, squeezed between two hotter areas. It’s all to do with sea ice reflecting the sun....

For all I know, Monbiot may be right. It just seems remarkably convenient that any climatic trend is the fault of greenhouse gases . Getting hotter? Global warming! Getting cooler? Global warming! Average overcast October day? Gaea is on her last legs!

Although I am sceptical of some of the political schemes put forward in the name of the Rio-Kyoto-Copenhagen-Cancun agenda, I have so far refrained from entering into a debate about the meteorology, being acutely aware that I have no scientific qualification. But I’m starting to realise that this doesn’t inhibit anyone else; possibly because, for partisans on both sides, it was never about the science in the first place.

Seward steamed about boiler regs

State Senator James L. Seward got hot under the collar about the way the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is going about regulating outdoor wood boilers (OWB) which some people use to heat their homes.

Seward sent letters to the DEC asking for a full public review of regulations in order to "ensure a proper balance between clean air and allowing upstate residents to make use of affordable, renewable energy sources like outdoor wood boilers.”  Seward points out that the process has been closed to elected officials and the public, and the revised regulations were not even posted on the DEC website two days in advance of a scheduled vote.  
 
Just when people are looking for renewable energy options and alternatives are getting much more expensive, new regulations raising costs and limiting options are being rushed through before the public can read them and comment... sounds just like the way Congress works.

"The Tea Party’s Uphill Challenge"

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I knew there was a reason why I'm generally suspicious of things originating in academe (Prof. Jacobson and a few others excepted), and this article is a good example.  The tone is a little startling considering the source (conservative Grove City College in PA, not so far from Tompkins County): 

"The Tea Party’s Uphill Challenge," by Dr. Mark W. Hendrickson

The Tea Party movement and its millions of supporters have high hopes that the recent elections will rein in runaway government. While I endorse this objective, accomplishing it will be far more difficult than most people realize.

Really? Perhaps our local tea party folk are preternaturally perspicacious, but I think "most people realize" that it took a century for us to get into this mess, and it will take quite some time to get out of it. In fact, "most people" are in this fight not so much for themselves as for their children and grandchildren.

The Tea Partiers will have to contend with more than just a Big-Government president and Senate. They also face well-funded, well-connected, and well-entrenched special interests,

Undoubtedly the biggest problem tea partiers face.

plus a public that expects the officials they elect to shrink government and balance the federal budget only if it’s the other guy’s programs that get cut.

Again—really? The conservative-minded people I talk to (who presumably are the ones electing the officials they expect "to shrink government and balance the federal budget") are quite well aware that this process will be painful for everybody, including themselves. The professor and I must move in different circles.

Would-be reformers will also have to deal with the larger, permanent, unelected powers that aren’t accountable to the people.

The fact is that the United States isn’t as democratic as we’d like to think it is.

OK, time for a Captain Renault moment: "I'm shocked, shocked..."

We cherish the idea that the vox populi (the voice of the people)

Who's being elitist now? I happen to know a little Latin myself, Professor, as do many others.

predominates over the will of privileged elites; that government is subordinate to the people (that it serves the people, rather than ruling them);

Oh, puh-leez! All us rednecks out here do know the meaning of "subordinate."

that those in positions of governmental power should be accountable to the people from whom they derive their authority; that government is, essentially, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Is that the kind of system we have today?

Of course not.  There'd be no reason for a tea party (or this article) if it were otherwise.

Let’s see:

Congress delegated its constitutional prerogative to be the guardians of our money to the Federal Reserve System.

Again, nearly a century ago (1913).

As I’ve previously discussed, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke & Co. exercise extraordinary discretionary powers that affect us all, yet Bernanke—arguably the second most powerful person in America—is unelected and unaccountable to the people.

Key rules by which we live—most notably, the right to legal abortion—were created by the Supreme Court, instead of by Congress. Regardless of your opinion about the Roe v. Wade decision, it doesn’t seem very democratic that five unelected, unaccountable justices should have the power to establish the rules by which we live.

Anyone who's read The 5000 Year Leap (as many tea party people have) understands the founders' concepts of the separation of powers and of checks and balances (principles 16 & 17) and that progressive policies over the course of decades have moved us far from those founding principles. It's not news. 

Perhaps the greatest damage to democracy has been the tremendous amount of power amassed by “the permanent government,” the unelected federal bureaucrats.

Consider:

Although the Constitution confers the legislative prerogative on Congress, in a typical year federal agencies will adopt more than 10 times as many legally binding rules as Congress passes laws (3,830 final rules compared to 285 laws in 2008, for example).

The Obamacare bill grants the Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to determine or define what the legislation means no fewer than 1,697 times, according to a tabulation by Devon Herrick of the National Center for Policy Analysis.

This year’s Dodd-Frank financial reform bill gives power to unelected officials to decide which financial institutions live and die. It also adds power to the 115 federal agencies that already shared regulatory supervision over the financial system, and guarantees high-paying federal jobs to all employees of those agencies, despite their failure to protect us from the financial meltdown of recent years.

The EPA has a long tradition of exceeding its statutory authority and seems determined to further cripple the generation of electricity by imposing heavy penalties for carbon dioxide emissions, despite the crack-up of the global-warming myth and the refusal of Congress to restrict CO2 emissions.

Nobody seems to be able to stop the National Labor Relations Board from helping unions to avoid conducting business in a way that is transparent to rank-and-file workers.

These are just a few examples of the power wielded by unelected officials. They are part of what the late economist Milton Friedman termed an ”iron triangle:” Congress appropriates funds for federal agencies, who, in turn, give grants to citizen-activist groups that then actively lobby Congress for expansions of those programs. Thus is maintained what Friedman and his wife, Rose, labeled “the tyranny of the status quo.”

The preceding five paragraphs constitute much of the raison d'être (I can toss around foreign phrases, too) for the tea party—no surprises here.

The influx of some new, Tea Party-supported legislators in Congress should make government marginally more democratic. At least we can count on an end to the imperial speakership of Nancy Pelosi, which was characterized by major legislation written behind closed doors (in the middle of the night),

A more salient point here might have been that the "major legislation written behind closed doors" isn't even written by members of Congress and their staffs, but by outside groups with their own agendas. That's the really spooky part. It's no wonder that folks in Congress often don't know what's going on.

ram-rodding bills along partisan lines (before even Pelosi's allies could read them), and refusing to heed the concerns of millions of Americans (by excluding their elected representatives from even having a perfunctory say in Congress’ proceedings). That is significant, though incremental, progress.

Will the Tea Party movement be able to tame Big Government in all its undemocratic manifestations? That isn’t likely on the strength of just one strong mid-term election. The task ahead is daunting.

Good grief! Does this man think that people are just sitting on their laurels in the wake of the November elections? We really aren't moving in the same circles.

Anyway, the link to the original article is here (h/t Jim) in case you'd like to read it sans my snotty comments.

'A Digital Nativity Story'

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Wonderful!

Thanks to Kathy Shaidle at Five Feet of Fury (a must-read blog if you have friends or family in Canada, but that's a story for another day...)

Lions of the Senate.

I'm telling you, fellow (elected) Republicans—we're watching.

As always, good stuff at Day by Day:

"The Baby Boomers Turn 65" in Dryden

There's nothing you didn't already know in this little USN&WR piece, but the local connection was surprising (and fun) to see:

....Robert Baxter will turn 65 in August 2011, but is reluctant to leave a job he loves. "I've been lucky enough to work my way up in business to the point where I am running the show and that is quite rewarding, so I am in no hurry to retire," says Baxter, CEO of Dryden Mutual Insurance Company in Dryden, N.Y....

Hanna to meet on Indian affairs

Congressman-elect Richard Hanna is scheduled to meet with the Seneca County Board of Supervisors, the Cayuga County Legislature, Seneca Falls and Romulus school districts and the Citizens Advisory Committee to the board's Indian Affairs Committee on December 27.

There are several long-standing issues to discuss, including the failure of the Cayuga Indian Nation to collect sales tax on sales to non-Indians, disagreements about land the tribe wishes to put into a tax exempt federal trust, and legal bills.

Read this article in the Finger Lakes Times for more details.

 

The U.S. Congress is not a Charity

Today's bad idea:  Our junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand is trying to breathe new life into a bill to provide charity to First Responders of the 9-11 Terrorist Attack. Now charity is good, and it ought to be part of our reflex and fiber as individuals.  But our constitution does not provide for distribution of of our tax money in this way. 

We have a long history of these kind of arguments.  Take some time to review the classic case involving Davy Crocket in the House of Representatives. 

The coming collapse in the state budgets--a "60 Minutes" report

I'm feeling a little like the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come...video via Hot Air. It's almost 14 minutes long but worth it (especially if you bypass the ads).

Musical chairs

The ongoing flight from New York taxes means that the state will be losing one or two congressional seats in the upcoming redistricting.  Either way, the first seats to be lost will be one of the vulnerable upstate freshman Republicans... Richard Hanna in the 24th, Ann Marie Burkle in the 25th, or Tom Reed in the 29th.  As this article at National Journal muses, unseating Richard Hanna could put some pressure on Maurice Hinchey, so maybe the Dems will go after one of the other seats instead.

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