Nothing Out of the Ordinary

From the Daily Mail:

Vice President Joe Biden’s costly trip to London and Paris last month just got more expensive.

A newly uncovered receipt from the February trip shows the vice president’s office spent $321,665 to a limousine company in Paris, in addition to the previously reported hotel tabs of $585,000 for one night’s stay in the city and and $459,338 for a night in London.

State department officials say Biden’s staff members, who are not allowed to drive themselves, used the limo company to get around the city. Biden’s limousine was flown in from the U.S.

The limo bill was first reported by CNN after the Weekly Standard discovered the hotel bills online, where federal officials had posted contract filings for the expenses.

During his trip in late February, Biden spent the night at two five-star hotels – one night at the Hyatt Regency London for a total of $459,338.65 and another night at the Hotel Intercontinental Paris Le Grand for $585,000.50.

A State Department official told ABC News that the costs are ‘nothing out of the ordinary.’

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Obscene

From SFGate:

Alameda County supervisors have really taken to heart the adage that government should run like a business — rewarding County Administrator Susan Muranishi with the Wall Street-like wage of $423,664 a year.

For the rest of her life.

According to county pay records, in addition to her $301,000 base salary, Muranishi receives:

– $24,000, plus change, in “equity pay’’ to guarantee that she makes at least 10 percent more than anyone else in the county.

– About $54,000 a year in “longevity” pay for having stayed with the county for more than 30 years.

– An annual performance bonus of $24,000.

– And another $9,000 a year for serving on the county’s three-member Surplus Property Authority, an ad hoc committee of the Board of Supervisors that oversees the sale of excess land.

Like other county executives, Muranishi also gets an $8,292-a-year car allowance.

Muranishi has been with the county for 38 years, and she’s 63. When retirement day comes, she’ll be getting a lot more than a gold watch.

That’s because, according to the county auditor’s office, Muranishi’s annual pension will be equal to the dollar total of her entire yearly package — $413,000. She also has a separate executive private pension plan, for which the county chips in $46,500 a year.

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The Concentration of Wealth

From Daniel Greenfield:

Time and time again, the liberal defenders of government power have attacked any call for reform as a plot by the wealthy. Even now New York Times editorialists pound their keys about the “Concentration of Wealth”, invoking presidents from Andrew Jackson to Theodore Roosevelt. But in our America, the “Concentration of Wealth” is not found in the hands of a few billionaires. It is found in the hands of the government.

The editorialists talk about the income gap and how much wealth is held by the top 1 percent of the country, but they are leaving something out. Their statistics deal with individuals, not institutions. And it is institutions which threaten our liberties, not individuals.

The top 10 wealthiest men and women in America barely have 250 billion dollars between them. That sounds like a lot of money, until you look at annual Federal budgets which run into the trillions of dollars, and the country’s national debt which approaches 15 trillion dollars. And that’s not taking into account state budgets. Even Rhode Island, the smallest state in the union, with a population of barely a million, has a multi-billion dollar budget.

As the 10th richest man in America, Michael Bloomberg wields a personal fortune of a mere 18 billion dollars, but as the Mayor of the City of New York, he disposes of an annual budget of 63 billion dollars. In a single year, he disposes of three times his own net worth. A sum that would wipe out the net worth of any billionaire in America. That is the difference between the wealth wielded by the 10th wealthiest man in America, and the mayor of a single city. And that is the real concentration of wealth. Not in the hands of individuals, but at every level of government, from the municipal to the state houses to the White House.

While liberal pundits pop on their stovepipe hats, fix their diamond stickpins and cravats, and trade in 19th century rhetoric about the dangers of trusts and monopolies– the power in 20th century America lies not in the hands of a few industrialists, but with massive monopolistic trust of government, and its network of unions, non-profits, lobbyists and PAC’s. The railroads are broken up, offshore drilling is banned, coal mining is in trouble and Ma Bell has a thousand quarreling stepchildren– now government is the real big business. How big?

The 2008 presidential campaign cost 5.3 billion dollars. Another 1.5 billion for the House and the Senate. And that’s not counting another half a billion from the 527’s and even shadier fundraising by shadowy political organizations. But that’s a small investment when you realize that they were spending billions of dollars to get their hands on trillions of dollars.

Do you know of any company in America where for a mere few billion, you could become the CEO of a company whose shareholders would be forced to sit back and watch for four years while you run up trillion dollar deficits and parcel out billions to your friends? Without going to jail or being marched out in handcuffs. A company that will allow you to indulge yourself, travel anywhere at company expense, live the good life, and only work when you feel like it. That will legally indemnify you against all shareholder lawsuits, while allowing you to dispose not only of their investments, but of their personal property in any way you see fit.

There is only one such company. It’s called the United States Government.

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Shall Not Be Infringed

From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Americans worried about the prospect of door-to-door firearm searches, especially in light of Chuck Schumer’s terrible new background-check legislation, should familiarize themselves with the case of Shawn Moore and his eleven-year-old son — and take note of the calm way in which he dealt with the violation of his privacy. On The Blaze, Moore and his lawyer, the latest victims of the hysteria that has followed the abomination at Newtown, claim that:

  • NJ’s Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) came to his home, accompanied by police officers. They claimed to be responding to a call about a photo of a young boy holding a firearm.
  • Without a search warrant, DYFS demanded entry into Moore’s home and access to all of his firearms. Moore was not initially there, but his wife called him.
  • With his lawyer listening to the exchange on the phone with police and DFYS, Moore denied entry to his home and access to his safe where he stores his guns.
  • When Moore requested the name of the DFYS representative, she refused to give it to him.
  • After threatening to “take my kids,” the police and Family Services worker left — “empty handed and seeing nothing.”
  • The DYFS worker repeatedly demanded access to the house and for Moore to open his safe where the firearms were stored. She said that the guns should be catalogued and checked to make certain they were “properly registered.” (NJ does not require registration, it is voluntary.)
  • The four police officers acted professionally, they were there at the request of DYFS.
  • The worker refused to identify herself. Mr. Moore demanded that she giver her name. She refused and ran away.
  • As of Tuesday morning, Mr. Nappen believes that DYFS is still pushing for an inspection, “which is not happening.”

Why? Because Mr. Moore put a picture of his son holding a gun on Facebook.

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Liberty Dying

From Charles C. W. Cooke:

Fundamental liberties are usually black-and-white propositions, and back when the architects of Anglo-American freedom had confidence in their work they had a lexicon fitting for people prepared to defend them. Tyrants and usurpers were termed “tyrants” and “usurpers.” Free men were entitled to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Not now. Now, we speak of “compromises” between liberty and propriety, and of the need for the government to make sure that the citizenry and the media are “reasonable.” We are all familiar with Canada’s march toward tyranny and I have written often of similar British violations. Now, in my country of birth the government claims to have come to a “deal” on the freedom of the press. This should raise alarm bells: Free nations, suffice it to say, do not come to “deals” on the freedom of the press.

As John O’Sullivan reports, London, once the undisputed center of the free world, has fallen to the dull charms of cheap censorship. For the first time since 1711, it seems that the state will regulate the media. Those famous words that open the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law,” written by men whose commitment to British liberty was so unshakable that they broke with the crown in order to preserve it explicitly in the republic that they had made, are the last vestige of a classical-liberal order that once looked impregnable. The Commonwealth is in a sorry state: In Canada, the Supreme Court is so happy for the government to silence the people that it has ruled that the truth constitutes no defense; Australia’s government is following the ugly trail of the Leveson inquiry, Britain’s investigation of the press; and in New Zealand the march toward outlawing all “hate speech” continues. And what of England my England? My country now imprisons people for being offensive on Twitter and arrests students who call police horses “gay,” stifles politically incorrect expression, and has found a majority of the political class willing to regulate the press. Only America retains ironclad prohibitions that remain unbroken by the vandals.

On David Letterman’s show late last year, the Eton- and Oxford-educated David Cameron claimed not to know what “Magna Carta” meant in English. At the time I suspected that this was a pretense — an attempt to remain cool in the face of learning. Now, I am not so sure. Cameron should pay a dear price for his enabling of the Leveson report and its consequences. But he will do no such thing. He is, after all, supported by the other two main parties and a majority of the public. A few have stood up, London’s Mayor Boris Johnson among them, “refusing to sign up to any of it.” They are brave, but they are eccentric. This way, slowly but surely, does liberty die.

In America, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter’s preposterous claim yesterday that speech he doesn’t like is not protected by the First Amendment — and his unlettered recital of the “fire in a crowded theater” nonsense — were treated by thinking people as just that: preposterous and unlettered. In England, such ideas now have a strong, influential, and growing constituency. The old phrase “it’s a free country” is being diminished in favor of meaningless but masturbatory talk of “multiculturalism” and “inclusiveness.” What tosh. As far as this Brit is concerned, if any of the new ideas come into conflict with the classic principles of freedom then those new ideas can shove it. Screw feelings, reasonableness, compromises, and “deals.” Screw “balance” and “moderation” and “third ways.” Give me liberty or give me death! David Cameron can go hang, for all I care. I can still write that — right?

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The Dangerous (the Left) and the Stupid (the Right) Team Up in Great Britain

From John O’Sullivan:

Before I saw this morning’s news, I happened to be in the midst of Tom Stoppard’s fine trilogy of plays, The Coast of Utopia, about the different lives of such 19th-century Russian revolutionary intellectuals as Alexander Herzen and Mikhail Bakunin. The third play, Salvage, which begins in the Hampstead home of Herzen (I’m still reading it; its action may yet move to Paris or Geneva), contains the following remark from Herzen to his fellow-exiles about their English hosts:

They invented personal liberty, and they know it, and they did it without having any theories about it. They value liberty because it’s liberty. So when the Republic collapsed, you socialists — (He nods to Blanc.) — and you bourgeois republicans — (He nods to Ledru-Rollin.) — ran straight for the Dover Ferry.

Today, Britain’s three major parties agreed on a shameful compromise to bring the fractious British press under official regulation for the first time since 1771, when John Wilkes — the English equivalent of John Peter Zenger — successfully established the right of newspapers to publish uncensored reporting of parliamentary and public affairs. It is a serious attack on freedom by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, and a cowardly retreat in the face of that attack by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tories.

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