In the "what could go wrong?" department...


NEW YORK STATE -- The Department of Motor Vehicles is dropping the requirement for vision tests, making it easier for drivers to renew licenses without a trip to the DMV.

Officials with the agency say the change results from Governor Cuomo's call to streamline state agencies.

Beginning Wednesday [9/28/11], anyone renewing a license will "self-certify" that they meet the vision requirement...

Paine, Pogo, and More...

...a pamphleteer's musings on the not-so-petty tyranny that envelops us.

Common Sense in the Twenty-First Century

     We have met the enemy and he is—us.  We say we have a government of laws, not of men, but if we don’t honor our laws, if we allow the exercise of raw power against fellow Americans without justice and law, where are we?

     In A Man for All Seasons, Sir Thomas More said, “And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, the laws all being flat?  This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's!  And if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?  Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!”

     The concept of legal restraint is fast eroding away.  Every petty office holder now thinks that he or she is entitled to speak authoritatively and legislate on virtually every aspect of our lives.  While we talk about the need to restrict government, it keeps on growing.

     If we remain silent in the face of usurpation of power, what freedoms will be left to us?  We must speak and act.  Lincoln said, “As our cause is new we must think anew and act anew.  We must disenthrall ourselves.”  Robert Heinlein wrote, “You can have peace or you can have freedom, never expect to have both at the same time.”

     People question whether the Constitution still matters (see Time Magazine).  It matters.  The Constitution is the glue that keeps a people prone to violence honoring elections and litigating rather than fighting.  The last time the Constitution really broke down, we had an incredibly bloody civil war.  As long as people believe the rules of the Constitution are the rules, they consent to be governed.  Loosen that bond and you have chaos.

     The President now enforces only those laws with which he agrees, notwithstanding the Constitution’s requirement that the President faithfully enforce the laws, all the laws, not just those the President likes.  He bypasses Congress and uses recess appointments and executive orders to carry out appointments and policies he knows Congress won’t approve.  He and members of Congress vote on bills without reading them and which fly in the face of the known wishes of the majority of the people they supposedly represent but whose will they defy.  What happened to representative government?

     We have become politically polarized.  The art of compromise has been lost, partly because in every negotiation, it takes two, negotiating in good faith, to reach agreement.  Negotiating in good faith does not mean “you give me what I want and then we’ll reach agreement.”  Class warfare is exploited by some and we are approaching a majority of our citizens who no longer pay income taxes.  When people are no longer taxed themselves, what is their incentive to vote against taxing others to gain benefits?  None.

     County legislatures take positions on international issues.  City councils announce “sanctuary cities” and legalize federally banned drugs.  Local town boards strip people of property rights and ban every aspect of economic activities they don’t like, or zone out entire industries, even in defiance of state law.  The concept that local officials elected to fill potholes should respect the limitations on their authority and not deliberate foreign affairs seems lost.

     The Constitution stands at the top of our legal pyramid, followed by federal law.  Our states retain some vestige of sovereignty and power to act where the Constitution allows concurrent authority.  But, it is unseemly for states to undermine active and constitutional federal policy.  Localities are by law mere sub-divisions of the states.  They do not enjoy total home rule and we elect them for some close to home oriented services.  We are represented at each level by different people with differing responsibilities.  It is wrong for local governments to spend their time and our money on issues over which they have been assigned no power.  Don’t they have enough to do locally?

     Civility has been lost.  Rather than argue issues on the merits, all too often some attack opponents personally rather than debate their arguments.  Calling someone “stupid” is not an argument on the merits, it is a showing of disrespect.  For a society that prides itself as multi-cultural or culturally aware, intolerance of diversity of opinion is a sad commentary on today’s America.  And, when it is particularly prevalent in academic communities where ideas should be debated on their merits it is even more disturbing.

     Our government can no longer act even to protect our vital interests.  Take energy development.  We have become dependent on foreign nations for our energy.  When you are dependent, you become less free.  Dependency requires us also to protect vital interests overseas, entangling us in overseas wars, killing American service people.  Yet, we have the resources at home, if we develop them, to meet much of our need.  But, while they consume energy, some Americans who heat their houses, drive their cars, and live on the grid oppose domestic energy development everywhere, in far off places and in their own back yards.  For them it is fine for people in other countries and other areas to accept the risks of development for their comfort, but never any development in their own back yards.  This is a national security interest.

     We can learn much from a historical predecessor, the Roman Republic.  When civic virtue died out, when men clung to power, when government became corrupt, the Roman Republic gave way to the Roman Empire, rule by emperors.  Great men gave up power in the Roman Republic, power was kept divided, and given only for a short term.  There were checks and balances.  Our founders knew that and tried to design a government that would stand the test of time.  It has, but it is now in peril.  Office holders acknowledge few restrictions and many cling to power, making politics a professional career.

     Our politicians pass pork barrel legislation so they can claim they got money for us.  As Ronald Reagan said, “it is all our money.”  There are no free lunches.  The government has no money of its own, only money taken from the private sector, our money.

     Politicians go to Washington and morph from our representatives into entrenched defenders of the bodies on which they serve and their privileges.  They exempt themselves from their own laws.  They resist term limits that would rotate the powers, responsibilities, and burdens of office.  They make politics a lifetime career, instead of a period of civic service in a lifetime of private sector work.  They like to make us dependent on government.  Self reliant people do not feel grateful at election time.

     A simple political reform would change much but will never pass.  Our government officials should be paid and compensated on how efficiently they deliver services.  If personal pay were tied to government performance and effectiveness with controlled costs, then cost conscious politicians would arise and work hard to find productivity in government.  The current system rewards growing empires and spending more, even if wastefully.

     America can have a new birth of freedom.  But, to get it we must stand up and be counted.  We must turn our backs on big nanny government that claims it can solve all of our problems and which creates more of them.  We must limit our public spending as much as possible to what we can afford.  We must prevent the erosion of civil liberties and of our personal and our property rights.  If we continue with business as usual, our country may survive for several centuries, much as Rome did, but it will be on the path to decline and fall.

Publius Ithacanus
July 2011

Lions of the Senate.

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

As always, good stuff at Day by Day:

In Sunday-evening surprise, Senate unanimously passes food safety bill

Remember this? Now, from the Hill:

The Senate unexpectedly approved food safety legislation by unanimous consent Sunday evening, rescuing a bill that floated in limbo for weeks because of a clerical error....

....Democrats first attempted to attach the food safety bill to the two-and-a-half-month spending measure but Republicans balked because they wanted to keep that measure clean, according to Senate aides....
....Republicans, however, later agreed to pass it by unanimous consent....
....Sen. Tom Coburn, the outspoken conservative Republican from Oklahoma, had been blocking the legislation. He lifted his objection at the final moment.
I would remind our Republican MCs of this:

2009-10 Public Payroll Data

The Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy compiled information about the 2009-10 Public Payrolls for county and municipal employees in the state. Check out one-of-nine town payrolls. (These numbers do not include substantial pension and health care contributions.)

Town Employees Average Salary Rank *
Ithaca 77 $47,674 1
Lansing 37 $39,973 3
Dryden 36 $34,150 13
Newfield 18 $25,997 71
Caroline 15 $26,972 59
Groton 15 $35,911 6
Danby 11 $33,539 16
Enfield 11 $25,923 72
Ulysses 12 $31,471 26

* Rank of average salary for 145 towns in the Southern Tier.  Remember that the villages are separate entities with their own employees and budgets.

The Empire Center has a nifty website where you can get individual salary information for public employees, and a whole lot more. Check out and see where your money goes.

(Hat tip to Kelly for the pointer to this data.)

House May Block Food Safety Bill Over Senate Error


A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House....

Really?  The Constitution says that?

....The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.

Here's the whole (brief) article.

11/29/10: The Federal Farming Power Grab Scheduled for Senate Vote Today

See my earlier post below. In addition to adding to what we think we know about what's in S.510, an  article at today's American Thinker also has an enlightening description of how this stuff actually happens in the halls of Congress—Schoolhouse Rock it ain't.

UPDATES (11/30/10) on this bill here.  Also, a tool for tracking what's going on and what people are writing about the bill is in this box (which is great when they keep it updated): 

Dryden and sustainability

The first town-wide meeting re: Dryden's sustainability initiative was held November 16th.  Here are some

"Personal definitions of sustainability from participants:"

1. “Dryden is a place where people will be thriving and enjoying life and each other’s company
 in peace, health, and plenty.”

2. “Local, green, natural, affordable, equitable, community pride.”

3. “Living or operating within the means provided with the ability to save for future use.”

4. “It is not spending more money and buying more things to create less energy. It is learning
 and knowing how to simply use less energy.”

5. “Self-reliant without being a burden on your neighbor.”

6. “Practice-based on current technology that benefit us now and future generations in a 
 positive manner.”

7. “A sustainable future demands hard choices and requires accepting limits on what we do
 including limiting human population.”


For more of this stuff, visit the town sustainability page (you have until December 15th to comment). And for an alternate approach, try an article entitled The Livable Communities Act.


Cui bono?

I was once on the staff of a church where one of the congregation members tried to encourage attendance at Wednesday night suppers with the slogan, "Hey—ya gotta eat!"  Between that indisputable fact and the presence of various agricultural interests in the town and the county, there are plenty of reasons to wonder about the Food Safety Bill (S.510).  After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Who Benefits? The Food Safety Bill Will Centralize and Regulate Food Production

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” - Thomas Jefferson.
This Founding Father would be rolling in his grave if he knew of the draconian measures to restrict food production the Senate is seeking to bring in. Under the deceptive title of the "FDA Food Safety Modernization Act", the bill if passed into law will crack down not only on large corporations, but also on "small businesses and entities that sell directly to consumers", and will give authorities power to further regulate "growing, harvesting, sorting, packing, and storage operations, minimum standards related to soil amendments, hygiene, packaging, temperature controls, animal encroachment, and water"....

Read the whole thing.

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