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I’m not sure if this is an energy policy joke or a monetary policy joke, but it’s still worth sharing

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The next time you decide to go on a trip or vacation, consider getting a bunch of these Gas Coupons.

I didn’t realize it, but these coupons are good for one gallon of gas at most retailers.  I have seen them around, but until recently never took advantage of them, I never realized their actual worth.

You probably have one or two just lying around somewhere, now is the time to use them before they lose their value, and it’s too late!!

These coupons can be obtained at most banks and retail stores across America.

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I don’t like it when politicians pass laws that undermine the freedom and prosperity of the American people. But I really hate it when politicians pass those laws and exempt themselves.

Years ago, as a lowly Senate staffer, I recall watching a debate about whether politicians were going to increase fuel economy regulations and thus force people into cars that were smaller, less convenient, and less safe. One good Senator, I think perhaps Don Nickles of Oklahoma, offered an amendment that basically would have forced bigwigs on Capitol Hill to live by the same rules by requiring limousines for congressional leaders to meet the same onerous restrictions. Needless to say, the arrogant political class thought this was absurd and to this day they get driven in luxury gas guzzlers (paid for by you and me).

We now have another version of this laws-for-thee-but-not-for-me mentality from the Obama Administration. No, I’m not talking about Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary who is in charge of the Internal Revenue Service but got a free pass after illegally hiding $80,000 of income from the IRS. I’m talking about the President and his personal fleet of limousines.

He wants us to abide by rules that will be expensive and lower the quality of cars, but those rules won’t apply to him. Here’s what the Detroit News reported.

The U.S. Secret Service said today that some federal vehicles for law enforcement and security purposes will be exempt from President Barack Obama’s directive that all federal vehicles purchased starting 2015 be advanced technology models. Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy said the directive wouldn’t apply to vehicles used for some law enforcement or security reasons by various federal agencies. …That would include the GM-built Cadillac presidential limousine and other vehicles in the motorcade. It also expected to include many law enforcement vehicles.

Not surprisingly, this is completely contrary to what the President said he would do, as noted elsewhere in the article. Unless, of course, you think “100 percent” means something other than “100 percent.”

Obama announced the plan this week to “green” the federal fleet. “I’m directing our departments and our agencies to make sure 100 percent of the vehicles they buy are fuel-efficient or clean energy cars and trucks by 2015.Not 50 percent, not 75 percent — 100 percent of our vehicles,” Obama said today at an appearance in Landover, Md., at UPS facility to urge private companies to green their vehicle fleets.

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Joe Nocera has a must-read story in the New York Times about how the legal fallout from the financial crisis. His basic theme is that the government let all the bigwigs get away with their crimes, but then has a fascinating discussion about how the government targeted an inconsequential mortgage borrower.

I’m not sure I accept the first part of his premise. There were lots of sleazy people taking advantage of the perverse system created by bad government policy, but I would like to see some clear evidence of actual crimes before hopping on that bandwagon. Selling mortgage-backed securities filled with crummy home loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may have been immoral, for instance (at least from a libertarian perspective), but I’m not aware that it is against the law to make choices that hurt the economy – particularly when government policy is designed to reward such stupidity.

That being said, I do wonder why there haven’t been any bribery prosecutions of the politicians who got sweetheart loans as part of the “Friends of Angelo” scheme. Actually, I don’t wonder why politicians such as Chris Dodd and Kent Conrad got a free ride. Politicians operate by the principle that law are only for the little people. Nonetheless, these are examples of real laws being violated.

But I’m digressing. The purpose of this post is to show how the government decided to go through great effort and expense to nail someone who, at most, was willing to go along with the government-subsidized and government-created housing scam.

Here are the sordid details.

A few weeks ago, when the Justice Department decided not to prosecuteAngelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that none of the big fish were likely to go to prison for their roles in the financial crisis.

…There was, in fact, someone behind bars for what he’d supposedly done during the subprime bubble.

…Mr. Engle’s is a tale worth telling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its punch line. Was Mr. Engle convicted of running a crooked subprime company? Was he a mortgage broker who trafficked in predatory loans? A Wall Street huckster who sold toxic assets?

No. Charlie Engle wasn’t a seller of bad mortgages. He was a borrower. And the “mortgage fraud” for which he was prosecuted was something that literally millions of Americans did during the subprime bubble. Supposedly, he lied on two liar loans.

…It’s not just that Mr. Engle is the smallest of small fry that is bothersome about his prosecution. It is also the way the government went about building its case.

…Even the jurors seemed confused about how to think about Mr. Engle’s supposed crime. When it came time to pronounce a verdict, the jury found him not guilty of providing false information to the bank, which would seem to be the only fraud he could possibly have committed. Yet it still found him guilty of mortgage fraud. “I think the prosecution convinced the jury that I was guilty of something but they weren’t sure what,” Mr. Engle wrote in an e-mail.

…Even when he emerges from prison, though, his ordeal will not be over. As part of his sentence, Mr. Engle was ordered to pay $262,500 in restitution to the owner of his mortgages. And what institution might that be? You guessed it: Countrywide, now owned by Bank of America. Angelo Mozilo ought to get a good chuckle out of that one.

Later today, by the way, I’ll post about the IRS’s disgusting role in this story.

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The old joke in Washington is that Democrats are the evil party and Republicans are the stupid party (which is why you should guard your wallet and freedom whenever you hear talk of “bipartisanship”).

The GOP definitely is doing what it can to prove that at least one side of that joke is true. Republicans are actually talking about letting the debt limit increase in exchange for a vote on a balanced budget amendment.

Yes, you read correctly. They’re not talking about an increase in the debt limit in exchange for a balanced budget, or more borrowing authority in exchange for passage of a balanced budget amendment. Instead, they will roll over for the very low price of simply getting a vote on a proposed amendment.

Here’s a passage from a report in Human Events.

The Senate Republicans are preparing to tell President Obama that they want a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA) to the Constitution passed in Congress in exchange for raising the statuary debt ceiling above $14.2 trillion. “My hope is that we would force a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment as a condition to voting on the debt ceiling,” Sen. John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) told HUMAN EVENTS.  “By next week, or shortly thereafter, we will have all 47 Republicans unified behind the effort, and then begin to reach out to our Democratic colleagues.”

To understand the foolishness of this approach, here’s all you need to know.

1. If Republicans really want to force a vote on a balanced budget amendment, they basically have that ability already. The rules of the Senate give individual Senators considerable ability to disrupt ordinary business and force votes on motions that at the very least would be proxies for a BBA. And if all 47 Republicans really want to make a stink, they can grind the Senate to a halt and demand an up-or-down vote on a specific amendment.

In other words, Republicans are about to give the democrats something that they really want – an increase in the debt limit – in exchange for a vote that they could get anyhow.

2. More important, what makes them think it is a good deal to give Obama more borrowing authority in exchange for something that, at best, is symbolic? Everyone knows that there is zero chance of getting the necessary two-thirds vote to approve a balanced budget amendment.

That’s not an argument against having a vote (particularly if the BBA is well-written with real limits on taxes and the size of government), but it definitely is not a smart negotiating strategy. It’s sort of akin to trading a power-hitting all-star for a minor league utility player.

Fiscal conservatives should demand substance, not symbolism, in exchange for a higher debt limit. I’ll put forth a few ideas in next few days.

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I’ve been fortunate to know Walter Williams ever since I began my Ph.D. studies at George Mason University in the mid-1980s. He is a very good economist, but his real value is as a public intellectual.

He also has a remarkable personal story, which he tells in his new autobiography, Up from the Projects. I’ve read the book and urge you to do the same. It’s very interesting and, like his columns, crisply written.

To get a flavor for Walter’s strong principles and blunt opinions, watch this video from Reason TV. I won’t spoil things, but the last couple of minutes are quite sobering.

I suppose a personal story might be appropriate at this point. My ex also was at George Mason University, and she was Walter’s research assistant. Walter would give multiple-choice tests to students taking his entry-level classes and she was responsible for grading them by sending them through a machine that would “click” for every wrong answer. For almost every student, it sounded like a machine gun was going off. Suffice to say, Walter’s classes were not easy.

So while I’m glad to say he’s my friend, I’m also happy I never took one of his classes.

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I’m not a foreign policy expert, so perhaps I’m missing something, but a quick glance at the Constitution reveals that Congress has the power to declare war, as specified in Article I, Section VIII. Nobody else has that power, not even the President.

Notwithstanding this clear language, the United States may (or may not, depending on Obama’s mood) participate in military action against Libya merely because of a resolution at the United Nations.

This is rather troubling in the short run because it risks another messy entanglement in the Middle East – and it blatantly disregards the procedure created by our Founding Fathers for making such choices.

But it is equally troubling in the long run because it implicitly restricts the ability of the United States to unilaterally act if there is a time when America’s national security is genuinely threatened.

If we attack Libya because of a resolution from the U.N. Security Council, does that mean we can’t attack some terrorist stronghold in the future if we don’t get a resolution from the U.N.? Don’t kid yourself, the international bureaucrats and their multilateralist sympathizers all around the world think the answer to that question is yes, and they are delighted that the United States is acting in ways that strengthen their position.

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Sam Kazman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has a withering critique of dumb government policies that have taken away our freedom to buy low-cost and effective washing machines and instead forced us to buy expensive machines that don’t do a good job of cleaning our clothes.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that politicians are undermining our quality of life. These are the same jackasses, after all, that are in the process of requiring us to use crummy light bulbs. And they’ve already coerced us into ridiculous “low-flow” toilets that don’t work very well if you happen to…um…deposit something that reminds you of Washington.

Here’s an excerpt from Sam’s column, but read the whole piece since he also discusses how the Senate wants to make a bad situation even worse, and he also reveals how corrupt big businesses favor these mandates so they can eliminate low-cost options.

…for decades the top-loading laundry machine was the most affordable and dependable. Now it’s ruined—and Americans have politics to thank.

…The culprit is the federal government’s obsession with energy efficiency. Efficiency standards for washing machines aren’t as well-known as those for light bulbs, which will effectively prohibit 100-watt incandescent bulbs next year. Nor are they the butt of jokes as low-flow toilets are. But in their quiet destruction of a highly affordable, perfectly satisfactory appliance, washer standards demonstrate the harmfulness of the ever-growing body of efficiency mandates.

The federal government first issued energy standards for washers in the early 1990s. When the Department of Energy ratcheted them up a decade later, it was the beginning of the end for top-loaders.

…Front-loaders meet federal standards more easily than top-loaders. Because they don’t fully immerse their laundry loads, they use less hot water and therefore less energy. But, as Americans are increasingly learning, front-loaders are expensive, often have mold problems, and don’t let you toss in a wayward sock after they’ve started.

When the Department of Energy began raising the standard, it promised that “consumers will have the same range of clothes washers as they have today,” and cleaning ability wouldn’t be changed. That’s not how it turned out.

…even though these newer types of washers cost about twice as much as conventional top-loaders, overall they didn’t clean as well as the 1996 models.

…We know that politics can be dirty. Who’d have guessed how literal a truth this is?

Hat tip to Advice Goddess.

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