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

- attributed to NY State Judge Gideon Tucker

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ending Lame Duck Congressional Sessions

Betsy McCaughey, former New York lieutenant governor and health care legislative pundit, wrote an insightful editorial in the Wall Street Journal recently entitled This Lame Duck Session Should Be the Last.

McCaughey reminds us that, prior to 1933, Congress didn't reconvene until March 3rd. The 20th Amendment cut the lame duck period by three months, leaving just a two-month stub of a session. But, as McCaughey emphasizes, back then, "no one imagined that the old Congress would return to the capital during that time."

She helpfully explains that only in extreme circumstances, such as the Korean War and WWII, did Congress ever reconvene after November elections, until two decades ago. Now, the lame duck session has become one of vindictive legislation jammed through by a party which lost on the first Tuesday of that November.

She recommends that,

"When John Boehner, the presumptive House Speaker, takes charge in January, he should introduce a bill providing that Congress will not meet between the November 2012 election and Jan. 3 2013. That simple change in the law will put the voters back where they always belong: in charge."

Fine for now. Is it each Congress' inability to bind future Congress' that prevents legislation, rather than Constitutional Amendments, from solving this problem permanently?

If so, it should be done. Along with, while they're at it, term limits on Congress and all Federal judges.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Glenn Beck's Faulty- Or Misleading- Reporting On Chocolate Inflation

I love chocolate. I take it sort of seriously.

So a few weeks ago, amidst his earlier programs about George Soros, Glenn Beck addressed the Fed's QE2 and its inflationary consequences.

Among the various commodities he spotlighted for price rises, Beck included chocolate. He reported that pundits with whom he or his staff had consulted forecast a $1.25 (or thereabouts) Hershey chocolate bar would soar to $7.

From the context and arrangement of the program's reporting, it was hard to miss the implication that chocolate prices are going to rise due to a weakened dollar. And maybe....maybe....global demand among newly-enriched nations.

Then, this morning, on CNBC, I happened to catch a much more deeply-reported version of the $7 chocolate bar story.

It seems that some foreign countries which are currently sources of cocoa beans are beginning to take acreage out of cocoa and plant more profitable crops. Meanwhile, global demand for chocolate is rising.

So, in the short term, there might be some upward pressure on chocolate prices, due to upward pressure on cocoa prices. In the very short term, the reported contended, there may even be some shortages.

But, happily, this is a normal economic supply-demand thing. Vietnam is reportedly planting cocoa. Other countries may, too, to replace the lost acreage and reap the higher cocoa prices currently being experienced. Then there are research efforts by trade groups to develop a cocoa bean that can survive in less forgiving environments, i.e., more temperate, less tropical ones.

So any near-term chocolate and cocoa price rises will probably be short-lived. And the source of the price rises have little to do with a weak dollar, although they are partially a function of rising global appetites for the sweet stuff.

I like Glenn Beck, and consider him to often do public service by providing useful information on various political topics. Especially semi- or totally-hidden, Progressive movement antics.

But in this case, on this story, Beck and his staff appear to have gotten it mostly wrong.

Monday, November 22, 2010

All The GOP Contenders

Last week, on one of the Fox News programs, probably Bill O'Reilly's Factor, there was a partial handicapping of GOP presidential contenders. In this weekend's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wrote her own ode to GOP presidential wannabes, citing this holiday weekend as decision time for many of them.

Both feted Mitt Romney as the one Republican who is clearly running- again.

God save us!

Romney is responsible for one of the worst state-run health care schemes in America. He had an outrageously high dollar/vote ratio in the last GOP presidential primary season.

Though visually impressive, Romney comes across as too glib, postured and wonkish when mixing it up with other candidates. I still recall someone asking him about some international incident. His response was that he'd first turn to his counsel for legal clarifications. It was a very safe, consulting-style reaction. And not at all comforting.

Then there's the worrying example earlier this month of ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman going down in very expensive flames out in the California gubernatorial race. This should remind us all, and Romney, again, that vast fortunes and CEO experience doesn't guarantee electoral success. Yes, I know Romney was governor in Massachusetts, but his healthcare mistake, at least for me, overshadows the rest of his tenure there.

In fact, in the same vein that I always found McCain's foolish co-sponsorship of McCain-Feingold to mark him as dangerously Progressive and stupid, I find Romney's backing of RomneyCare to be a similarly important marker for being untrustworthy and lacking in truly conservative principles.

If you want to unseat Wonderboy, I'd put my money on Giuliani, Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty or Mitch Daniels way before I'd ever consider Romney.