“No Man’s life liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session”.

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Nanny State's Omnipresent Gaze

I wrote this post on Wednesday regarding New York as a classical Nanny State.

Thanks to my Sitemeter information, I can now tell you that the folks running the Empire Nanny State are also behaving like Big Brother, watching every little opinion expressed about them.

For example, by Wednesday afternoon, I had five visits, nearly half of the day's blog traffic, from New York state employees in Averill Park and Bear Mountain State Park.

Empire State employees spent a total of roughly 35 minutes reading 18 pages of my blog.

I guess my little expose of how draconian New York State is in its control of who uses its recreational waterways, and how, aroused the curiosity, and maybe fear, of the state's bureaucrats.

As usual, I have the visiting computers' IP addresses. So, theoretically, one could identify the people in New York who were wasting taxpayer time and money on my article. But I'm not going to invade their privacy by publishing the addresses.

Do you think their webcrawler will find this post, too? And waste even more time worrying about my blog, and my ability to identify the involved public sector employees?

Maybe it's a good thing that I live in New Jersey.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Scott Rasmussen: Non-Partisan Pollster Extraordinaire!

Last weekend's Wall Street Journal interview profiled pollster Scot Rasmussen.

Rasmussen has taken a lot of heat of late for allegedly favoring Republicans and predicting a an anti-Democrat landslide in the upcoming Congressional elections.

Until reading the article, I was completely unaware of Rasmussen's key role in creating ESPN.

His polling work has drawn attention and criticism because of his use of automated dialers. But what the interview makes clear is that the theoretical debates are really moot. For example Rasmussen points to those who complain that he polls likely voters, not all registered voters. But, Rasmussen notes, the latter are who decide elections.

The article ends with these revealing paragraphs,

"With success has come criticism. Mr. Rasmussen has been attacked for alleged bias towards Republicans. He rejects such complaints, noting that because he focuses on likely voters his survey sample often includes more Republicans. "The key is whether I've been accurate," he says, noting that he was bitterly attacked by Republicans in 2006 and 2008 for showing several longtime GOP senators in trouble early on. Many of them lost.

"If I root for anyone to win, it's for our polls," he laughs. "If a Republican is ahead by two point, I want the Republican by two. If a Democrat is ahead by two, I want the Democrat by two."

Rasmussen makes such sense that it causes you to pretty much forget other polling organizations and just concentrate on his predictions.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tales From The Nanny State

Here's a sad tale of the loss of liberty under the Nanny State.

Last weekend, a friend and I planned to spend a day kayaking.

She already has a boat, and I found it incredibly easy- and cheap- to rent one. I called a local outdoors store, reserved a large flatwater kayak and paddle. If I so chose, they'd have also provided straps for securing the kayak to my roof rack.

Having secured both boats to my Thule rack, I asked my friend, "where to?"

She replied with several attractive options in New York State....then frowned.

It seems that in New York, you can't float anything in the water without a permit. And the permit requires things like a whistle, PFD, and God knows what else.

Okay, I said, so we go to a lake, like Greenwood, and buy permits, then put in?

No way Jose.

My friend informed me that New York State sees fit to have only one (downstate? I don't know...hard to believe it's the only office in the entire Empire State) permitting office, located in Bear Mountain State Park. It seems there's woman in that office whose full-time job is selling permits to put vessels in to New York waters.

But I still lacked the whistle, and had forgotten my paddle jacket/PFD at home. So, no New York lakes for us. I don't even want to think about the fine or jail time I'd probably receive if I were stopped and found to be lacking the permit and other required accessories.

So my friend and I drove up the NY Thruway, turned left and kayaked at Monksville Reservoir. About a mile short of NY's Greenwood Lake, safely in NJ.

The put-in was a snap. Large parking lot, portable sanitary facility, and a superb concrete ramp.

Needless to say, we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of paddling on a superb day. Sunny, hot and calm. Both of us being experienced kayakers, we never were in the slightest danger.

Isn't it sad that in New York State, you can't just wake up one morning, decide to paddle your boat, canoe or kayak on a lake, toss said craft on your car and go paddle? And, if a usage permit were required, that you can't go online to buy and download said permit?

No, you have to find your way to a single office in a state park, hope it's open, and then hope you qualify to get the damn permit.

That, my friends, is the Nanny State at work.

Happy paddling in NJ!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gay Marriage: What Does Marriage Mean?

Back on August 6th, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial in Friday's Weekend section entitled Now What for Marriage? The piece discussed California Ninth Circuit District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's verdict rejecting the state's 2008 Proposition 8, which defined marriage in the state as exclusively between a man and a woman.

A friend and I discussed the case the next week, during a long drive. He informed me, to my surprise, that a long time conservative advocate had joined David Boies in arguing against the Proposition, and, in effect, for gay marriage.

The editorial discussed the various contentions made by defense witness David Blankenhorn on the instability of gay marriages. It also highlighted Boies' contention that a marriage is a private contract, not a community event.

What I found particularly interesting, however, were the latter passages of the editorial.

Dana Mack, the author of the piece, and a defender of parenthood and, thus, conventional concepts of marriage, wrote,

"If marriage today is little more than a declaration of emotional commitment with tax and inheritance benefits, why not settle for the alternative of civil union- which ideally would grant the same legal and economic privileges to domestic partnerships as marriage does, and without the messy burden of history?

Fact is, the gay-marriage movement derives less of its animus from the material benefits society at large accords marriage than from the social and cultural dignities granted by its long history. In lobbying for marriage, gay men and women clearly care much less about legal advantages than they do about weddings, rings, and the spiritual trappings of married life.

The care about marriage precisely because in a culture searching for meaningful symbols, marriage is the veritable symbol of culture. Jonathan Rauch, a leader in the gay-marriage movement, puts it succinctly enough: Gay people want to marry because "marriage is the foundation of civilization." "

Mack finishes by asking,

"The question, however, is whether giving them license to piece together remnants of so decayed an institution as marriage will not aggravate all the more the fraying of its fabric."

Just so. Isn't that the real irony of the gay-marriage movement? Having muscled their way into being allowed to "marry," they empty the term of its meaning.

Marriage has been, historically, the institution by which society repopulated itself. But gay people, in a natural state, without highly-advanced technology or radical changes in other social institutions, i.e., adoption by same-gender couples, can't reproduce themselves.

Marriage is, at its base, about having children. Gay people can't have children naturally. Ergo, allowing gays to marry renders the term and concept of marriage meaningless.

What we have here is simply word games. You can use the law to try to reinterpret and redefine what marriage is, and who can marry. But deep down, people's common sense informs them that when marriage includes types of couples who can't biologically ever have children together, then marriage no longer has much meaning.

It's not about discrimination against gays. It's about removing the last vestige of the historically unique meaning of marriage.

And that's sad.

Monday, August 30, 2010

States Legislate Against ObamaCare

One of the last of my Wall Street Journal reads from my absence early this month was the lead staff editorial on August 5th entitled Show Me ObamaCare.

The lead sentence states,

"The political revolt against ObamaCare came to Missouri Tuesday, with voters casting ballots three to one against the plan in its first direct referendum.

Missouri's Proposition C annulled the "individual mandate" within state lines, or the requirement that everyone buy insurance or else pay a tax. Liberals are trying to wave off this embarrassment, but that is hard to do when the split was 71.1% in favor in a state John McCain won by a mere 0.1% margin. The anti-ObamaCare measure carried every county save St. Louis and Kansas City with 668,000 votes, yet just 578,000 Republicans cast a ballot in the concurrent primaries."

The editorial went on to make a major point about how unelected bureaucrats will, under ObamaCare's provisions, define what "health care" is in America. This involves, among other things, defining the elements of "medical loss ratios," which are the measures by which the costs of delivering care, e.g., expenses for capital and people, are meant to be controlled.

But my interest in the piece was mostly about this state challenge to the federal law.

Will the federal government seek to moot or overturn this Missouri law under supremacy, by which federal law automatically supersedes state laws?

Will such action incite further rage in Missouri, causing the election of anybody running against federal-level Democrats?

Would such action by the federal government cause even more support for the states' lawsuit against ObamaCare, as well as a wider, united move by states to amend the Constitution so that supremacy is radically redefined and limited, if allowed at all?

These are, I believe, all causes for hope and optimism concerning the American experiment. It would seem to be time for the people, through their states, which are the parties to the Constitution- which parties do NOT include the federal government, itself- to revisit the agreement and more explicitly place limits on federal power, as well as the ability of federal elected and appointed officials to become a permanent political careerist class.