Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Remember, it's for the children.
Good for Salazar. I'm not a huge fan of wind power (simply doesn't scale well), but I am in favor of diversifying the supply to the electrical grid.
This explosion and fire on the platform in the Gulf cannot be helping things. A tragic situation not unlike this in the late 60's dealt California's offshore oil business a crippling blow, and what we see here is exactly what those arguing against the President's expansion have pointed to. After years of talking about how all the platforms did so well even against Katrina-force winds, this explosion/spill is seriously undercutting industry credibility.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Here's what I'm planning to talk about:
--Arizona Immigration Story
--South Park Fatwa
--Role of Shame in our society--is there one? Does shame exist?
--Goldman Sachs circus
--Commission on Fiscal Responsibility
and time permitting, Big Fred will lead us in discussing "How deep is your commitment to the Republican Party? If the other side rolled on guns and abortion, would you still vote republican?"
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I like it. It's going to foment racial hatred...from the left. We'll hear attempted parallels to Selma and Birmingham of the 60s, but it simply won't resonate.
On a grander scale, I'd like to see something like: "This is the United States of America. You are welcome to join us. There is a line to get in. You need to get in that line if you want to get in. And there are some things you'll have to do once you get in line. Learn our language. Learn our customs and honor them. Obey our laws. Work hard. We like that here. A lot. We look forward to meeting you and becoming neighbors and especially fellow citizens. We'll even pitch in and help you get a start in your newly-earned pursuit of happiness. But we are a picky lot. Get out of that line and try to sneak in? Break our laws? Try to make us eliminate our customs? Get in the way of our pursuits of happiness? We DON'T like that here. A lot. This is the United States of America. Don't ever forget that."
Retired Vice Admiral John "Boomer" Stufflebeem's got a new blog, on Crisis Management, Messaging and Life.
Boomer is a great guy and a superb reader of people.
On my way to command as I left the Pentagon, I went to spend some time with him and seek his advice on success in command. "Learn how to under-react" was his advice. He said that those who are purposely trying to get you spun up will be disappointed, and those who are wary of your actions will be be fortified. Best advice anyone gave me, bar none. Didn't always implement it, but when I did, I thought of Boomer.
Welcome to the Blogosphere, my friend.
Now mind you, this person is an absolute delight. Fiercely intelligent, politically savvy, and wickedly funny, an hour's lunch conversation with her is not to be missed. But for some reason, I was struck in that moment with a sense that her reaching out to me in the time of our brief friendship had generally been linked with an attempt to gain some kind of information with me--while my reaching out to her had been abidingly social and conversational. Furthermore, I contented myself smugly with the notion that somehow, my approach to the friendship was more "authentic" because I sought nothing from it.
And then I began to examine my own presumptions.
Let's say for the sake of argument that I am right about this woman's approach to our friendship, and that my "use" to her as a friend is largely determined by my ability to provide her with relevant information. What "use" is she to me? Put another way, is there any such thing as "self-less" friendship, or do we choose and keep friends largely as a result of the extent to which they make us feel good, or laugh, or think more deeply, or what have you? Why is my desire for her conversation and company any less transactional than her desire for information? She sees me as a source of information and perhaps reasonable company and conversation. I see her as a source of lively entertainment and conversation, which makes me happy. I get something from her friendship, she gets something from mine. Both parties to a transaction, perhaps with different aims in mind. But nonetheless, the friendship is transactional from both ends.
Can friendship--even close, enduring, longstanding "Best Friend Forever" friendship--escape its elementally transactional nature? Is there any such thing as "selfless" friendship?
"Given the size of the government he wants to run, and given the size of the debt and existing obligations that he inherited, hewing to this position is untenable. But we heard -- at least we thought we heard -- the glimmerings of an opening in Mr. Obama's interview last week with CNBC's John Harwood, and the president's comments are worth revisiting as the commission prepares to hold its first meeting today."
Shall we look parse this statement a bit? First of all, the "size" of the government he wants to run is not a given--it can be restrained, it can be reduced. Secondly, the "size of the debt and existing obligations that he inherited" while substantial, pales in comparison to his additions thereto and their amplified additions in the years to come.
In the military, we have a canard about the Air Force that goes something like this--when they get the money from Congress to build a new Air Force base, they get enough to build the gyms, the schools, the housing, the hobby shops, the car wash, etc, then go back to Congress and complain they don't have enough for the runways and hangars. It sorta works that way with the Obama Administration; create a $900M stimulus that doesn't stimulate anything but community activist organizations, add a $1T health care plan and throw some student loans on top of it and pretty soon, you find yourself saying "we don't have enough coming in to pay for all this". So you seat a commission that you pack with folks you know will support what you wanted all along--and that is, more revenue to do more things. The non-virtuous cycle repeats itself, and our fiscal future is undermined.
This is what passes for Democratic solutions to tough fiscal problems.
It sounds as if both spending cuts and tax increases are on the table. Republicans would be advised to ensure that a third option--tax reform--is on the lips of all its members, as shifting from an income-based taxation system to a consumption-based system is ultimately the smart, long play for the Party (and the country).
The Commission will make its initial report in December of this year (after the 2010 Elections, natch).
Monday, April 26, 2010
No fan of free markets, Mr. Krugman has a column out this morning in which he aims his bile at the credit ratings agencies and details their decline from honest broker to co-conspirator.
Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and then.
Western Civilization has to stop apologizing for itself, and that includes its history of satire and parody. Threats of violence should be met with scorn and derision, not meekly surrendered to.
....not with a bang but a wimper.
He does a good job in this piece laying out the broad strokes of the government's case against Goldman Sachs.
At the end of the day, Goldman will walk because while what they did strikes many of us as wrong or unfair, it will not be found to be illegal. There continues to be a difference between unfair and illegal, and that is a good thing.
THE UNITED STATES NEEDS TO REDUCE GOVERNMENT SPENDING (or raise taxes).
Or, if you are a Democrat,
THE UNITED STATES NEEDS TO (reduce government spending or) RAISE TAXES.
From the article:
"The level of the correction needed is large, perhaps 10 percent of gross domestic product. In the United States, that would amount to roughly $1.4 trillion annually, to be cut from government programs or raised through new taxes."
I can't help but feel as if complaining about another trillion in taxes would be like complaining about a paper cut on your right hand as your right arm is being severed at the shoulder.
No matter what, given that we are now living with the consequences of over half the voting population's 2008 drinking binge, higher taxes are coming. The higher taxes, especially combined with the taxes coming from last year's spending spree, will reduce personal discretionary spending, stalling the marketplace and pretty much completing the Eurofication of the USA. Better start dusting off my French (I refuse to learn Spanish and CW has German covered).
As an aside, I wonder if the word "trillion" is going to get its own star on the walk outside Grauman's Chinese Theater. It certainly has become famous over the past year and a half.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I reluctantly shave every morning because I become even less visually appealing than I already am when I grow a beard. But the act of shaving is not something I enjoy doing. Especially when, in a rush to get the chore over with, I nick a nanometer of facial hide that apparently is all there is between the atmosphere and my aorta for the amount of blood that spews forth (I look soooo nice with two or three rolls of Charmin stuck to my face).
So I have to wonder, why the extra cost, risk and effort when the patient had the chance to avoid shaving for the rest of his life?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
We had a very well-informed caller on the show Wednesday night speak at length of the role of the credit rating agencies in the melt-down, and this article seems to back some of that up.
When I think of financial industry reform, I always talk about reforms that make the market "more free". In this case, the fact that these ratings agencies were very likely rating these vehicles improperly to support their own bottom lines--favored one side of a market transaction over the other. This is not a free market. Here is where government could have a salutary role in regulating the activities of the ratings agencies.
Where to begin, where to begin. First thing though, this issue is definitely on the agenda for the radio program on Wednesday night. To tee things up though, I have a couple of thoughts:
1. While the Feds control the borders, the states bear the brunt of federal border protection ineffectiveness. States and localities deal with crime, indigent issues (food, health care, shelter) etc. that flow from poor border protection, only very rarely is this a federal problem (once an illegal is in the country).
2. Arizona's Governor is a Republican in a tight re-election race. This issue (being tough on illegal immigration) plays well with her base.
3. Being tough on illegal immigration/border control plays well everywhere with the Republican base--but it plays horribly among Hispanics--a group that Republicans are trying to make inroads with in order to construct electoral majorities.
4. Politically speaking and tactically speaking, this is a problem for Republicans nationwide and will put Republicans on the defensive at the very time they need to be on the offensive. Why will this put Republicans on the defensive? Because the Bought and Paid for Media will naturally alight to the plight of the downtrodden immigrant and the worst parodies of Republicans and Conservatives will play out hourly in the news cycle. I'm not saying this is right, I'm saying that this will happen. Immigration reform is a loser issue for Republicans and the Democrats know it. Harry, Nancy and Barack are just fine with the AZ Governor stepping out in the lead like this. If this thing breaks out as a big issue--Repubs will do well in November--just not as well as they could.
5. The porous nature of our border with Mexico is a scandal and a serious national security issue. THIS is where Republicans need to concentrate our fire. Aiming it at the people who make it across the border ultimately undercuts our effectiveness. I have sympathy for the problems that Arizona officials face because of the feds inability to perform a very basic job (border protection), but this law, this series of actions by Arizona is a political poison pill--and a civil rights tinderbox.
6. What are the triggers that will drive an Arizona police officer to "reasonably suspect" that someone is here illegally? Presumably, how someone looks or dresses or speaks may play into it. But aren't there a ton of people in the American southwest who are solid, natural born American citizens who would trip the "your papers please" request from the law enforcement official? Some would say, "well yes, but that is the price we pay for our liberty"...which is nice, as long as it isn't YOU who are accosted on the street and told to produce your ID. This isn't a case of producing an ID in order to gain access to a service, benefit or emolument. This is the production of ID papers simply at the whim of a police officer who "reasonably suspects" that you might be illegal. There is a difference, friends, and it is an important one.
7. I used to be in the Navy, and we feared two things at sea--fires and floods--and the flood metaphor works here. When there was a flood, the first thing you did was isolate the source of the flood--shutting valves, patching pipes, plugging holes--or what have you. You did not worry about "dewatering" the space until the hole was patched. Republicans need to take a "flooding" approach to illegal immigration--we need to vastly rein in the anti-immigrant talk and policies that target the actions of illegal immigrants already here (de-watering) --and concentrate our energy EXCLUSIVELY on fixing the border (isolate the leak). Once we've got policies, resources and processes in place--we should turn to immigration reform that actually begins to get at the tougher questions of what to do with illegals who are here. These are severable issues, and I think we ought to sever them.
8. President Obama is sitting back and licking his chops at the prospect of a civil rights case that will invariably flow from the logical and foreseeable implementation of this law. Nothing good for Republicans will come of this.
I know we've got a lot of Red Meaters out there, and this issue is something for you to get your teeth into. Resist it, and urge Republican leaders to resist it. This is a pitch in the dirt--we shouldn't be swinging at it.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Got this little gem off my broker line today.
List Of Companies Posting Charges Related To Health-Care Law
Apr 23, 2010 12:30:00 (ET)
Starting in 2013, companies that provide prescription-drug benefits for retirees under Medicare can no longer deduct this subsidy from their taxes, due to the federal health-care overhaul signed into law on March 23.
Since companies had created an asset based on these expected deductions, they will now need to take a charge to reflect the fall in the asset's value.
The following companies have announced the amount of their health-care-related charges. Search the subject code N/HCC for the latest news on this topic.
Merck & Co. (MRK) -- $150M in 1Q
Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) -- $40 million in 1Q
Chubb Corp. (CB) -- 7 cents in 1Q
Deluxe Corp. (DLX) -- 7 cents in 1Q
PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) -- $40 million in 1H
Reynolds American Inc. (RAI) -- 9 cents in 1Q
Altria Inc. Group Inc. (MO) -- 1 cent in 1Q
Deluxe Corp. (DLX) -- 7 cents in 1Q
Sherwin-Williams Co. (SHW) -- 10 cents a share in 1Q
Baxter International Inc. (BAX) -- 7 cents a share in 1Q
Boeing Co. (BA) -- $150 million in 1Q; cut 2010 view by 20 cents a share
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) -- sees 2010 earnings cut by 10 cents a share
Hormel Foods Corp. (HRL) -- 5 cents a share in 2Q
Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) -- 12 cents a share in 1Q
Gannett Co. (GCI) -- $2.2 million in 1Q
MetLife Inc. (MET) -- $75 million in 1Q
PPF Industries (PPG) -- $85 million in 1Q
United States Steel Corp. (X) -- $27 million in 1Q
CNH Global NV (CNH) -- $20 million in 1Q
AT&T Inc. (T) -- $1 billion in 1Q
3M Co. (MMM) -- $85 million to $90 million in 1Q
Exelon Corp.(EXC) -- $65 million in 1Q
Verizon Communications Inc.(VZ) -- $970 million in 1Q
Carpenter Technology Corp.(CRS) -- 13 cents a share in 3Q
Ingersoll-Rand Co. Ltd. (IR) -- $41 million in 1Q
Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) -- $96 million or 25 cents a share in 1Q
Valero Energy Corp. (VLO) -- $15 million to $20 million in 1Q
Deere & Co. (DE) -- $150 million in 1Q
Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) -- $100 million in 1Q
Prudential Financial (PRU) -- $100 million in 1Q
Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL) -- $17 million in 1Q
Goodrich Corp. (GR) -- $10 million in 1Q
AK Steel Holding Corp. (AKS) $31 million in 1Q
Honeywell International Inc. (HON) -- $13 million in 1Q
Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) -- $5 million in 1Q
Kroger Co. (KR) -- $1.5 million to $2 million in 2010
Illinois Tool Works INc. (ITW) -- $22 million in 1Q
CMS Energy Corp. (CMS) -- $17 million in 1Q
Eaton Corp. (ETN)-- $25 million in 1Q
Exelon Corp. (EXC) -- $65 million in 1Q
Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. (HIG) -- $20 million in 1Q
Brush Engineered Materials Inc. (BW) -- 7 cents a share in 1Q
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 23, 2010 12:30 ET (16:30 GMT)
In the May issue of Commentary, Goldberg has expanded on this theme in a masterful way. It's a longish article (Commentary being a journal not for the short attention span generation), but it well worth reading. I can't decide whether I like Goldberg better when he's light and snarky or when he's firing on all intellectual cylinders (as he is in this piece). Either way, he's just better at this stuff than almost anyone else doing it.
Turns out SEC folks were too busy surfin' porn.
Just got back to the Farm and the scale. Not good....
All Time High (April 1 2009): 192.2
Diet start (June 1, 2009): 189
Last Friday: 182 (3/26/10)
Goal: Sub 170
I was actually pretty good (not great) this week--I guess I should be thankful there's not more damage than this....
Where has the time gone, friends? We've come around again to your day, the day when you share your thoughts, unburden your consciences, let the rest of the world know what is REALLY BUGGING YOU.
What are you thinking about? What are you reading these days? Any worthwhile objectives lined up for the Summer? What's going on?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Three bisexual men are suing a national gay athletic organization, contending they were discriminated against during the national Gay Softball World Series in 2008.
The suit alleges the North American Gay Athletic Alliance deemed the men "not gay enough" to participate in the series.
I guess it's true what they say, you sleep with one woman and you're labeled for life.
Hat tip: NRO
Good for you, Jersey.
News this week was that Goldman Sachs senior execs ponied up for nearly $1M in contributions to then candidate Obama's presidential campaign. Has this money bought them ANY relent from the abuse of the President? Has it bought them a vote on the SEC which would have waylaid the suit brought this week against them for fraud? Nope.
I have a sweet sense of schadenfreude as I watch Wall Street get hoisted on its own petard at the hands of the Obama Administration. You guys--you fatcats for whom pocketbook issues long ago ceased to be a reality--you guys for whom things like taxes and budgets are things of the past--you guys, who have the liberty and luxury to care about great, weighty social issues because your own everyday problems are attended to by your money or one of your household staff--you who freely gave of your own money to this neo-socialist "reformer"--oh yes, he'll reform now. He'll reform you and the rest of us into the long, slow decline that is just over the horizon.
Wall Street needs reform--and Conservatives need to shape up and realize that. What Liberals don't realize though is the shape that reform should take--and that is, any reform MUST make the markets MORE free. Our financial system nearly collapsed under the weight of the dual evils of a legitimate regulatory structure that was not implemented, and the collective "thumbs on the scale" of government, policymakers, and big banks--any reform that does not address the advantage gained by these latter players in what is supposed to be a "free market" does not comprise reform worth having.
Good morning, Sir. I hope you're well this fine day, though from the carefree look on your face this morning at 0645, I would surmise that things are going nicely for you. I'd like to bring up a small matter of commuting etiquette with you if you don't mind. Yes, yes, I know. I'm one of those cretins of carbon who uses his own automobile to get to work in the morning. I realize that I am commuting on a much lower moral plane than you, who burns nothing but calories as you perambulate off to your day's toils.
But, as we are all not so fortunate (or unfortunate) to work within walking distance of our dwellings, some of us continue to drive--and it is with us that you must occasionally share common commuting space. By this, I mean those portions of the roads which you must cross to once again gain access to that which is yours and yours alone--the sidewalk.
Would it be too much to ask that you walk briskly through the crosswalk? Now again, I realize that you have the right of way--doubly so because the little light in the crosswalk regulator tells us that--but would it be too much to ask that you take a moment from the iPod induced reverie to realize that in addition to extending the length of time for my commute (waiting for your glacial stroll across the street), you are exposing yourself unnecessarily long to the hazards associated with sharing horizontal byways with two-ton automobiles? I say this with all due consideration for your health, as not all drivers will be as conscientious as I, sitting there, waiting, watching, turning my head several times to espy other bi-ped commuters. No Sir--you are unnecessarily hazarding yourself and I must protest. Additionally, think of all the additional carbon burned every day all around the country, as motorists sit at cross-walks waiting for the ennobled, protected by law hoofers cluelessly strolling across four lanes of downtown traffic.
Sir--for your sake and the sake of our Mother Earth--I beseech you on this Earth Day--put a little spring in your step as you cross the street. Think globally, act locally.
As of now, my show is heard every day at 1PM and 4PM--as others are added to the lineup I'll probably be heard less often.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
1. Nanny State Update: Salt Limits:
2. Male/Female Pay Equity
3. Regulating the Financial Industry
4. Obama and Golfing
5. Supremes on cruelty to animals
6. West Virginia Mine Disaster
7. NSA Leaker Prosecution
Call in to join the fun!
Lots here to chew on for the show.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
"This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers."
"Men also work longer hours and are more willing than women to take dangerous but well-paid jobs as truck drivers, loggers, coal miners, or oil riggers. (My American Enterprise Institute colleague Mark Perry has suggested we designate October 11, 2020, Equal Occupational Fatality Day. That is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2008 alone. )"
Read the whole thing. H/T NRO
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I remember having to dress up for flights in the early 70's--not an airline rule, but clearly the norm. Not anymore.
Spirit Air has announced that they will begin charging for carry-on bags. GOOD! I have no problem with that. You should be charged for your seat, and for whatever else you bring along. Anything that can be done to minimize carry-ons is OK by me!
There are quite a few angles to this story, so let's take it up in some detail, shall we?
The first question is, who is the leaker--or more appropriately, where in government is the leak coming from? Who are the candidates? 1) The Office of the Secretary of Defense 2) the Joint Staff 3) The White House 4) The State Department. As to which it is, one has to move on to the next question--why would it be leaked. I give likelihoods that the organization cited is the source in percentages.
OSD (15%)would leak it under a few different circumstances--the most likely of which would be that Gates had grown frustrated with a lack of support within the administration for true strategic thinking. What could cause this frustration? The ascendancy of the "engagement"ists at State and on the National Security Council, political types who cannot fathom the possibility that the President's rhetoric on engagement will not produce results. What could this be a signal of? Fraying of relations among the big three--Gates, Hilary Clinton, and Jim Jones (NSC).
The Joint Staff (20%) would leak it under much of the same circumstances, including the possibility that OSD isn't pushing hard enough. The uniforms have plans on the shelf for military options--but what they fear is having to resort to such options with a thinly stretched force simply because there was insufficient care paid to creating a series of political approaches. I wouldn't put it past the Joint Staff to end-run OSD on this.
The White House (NSC) (5%) could have leaked this too. I have a tough time coming up with a good reason for them to do so except strategic communications--that is, talking to other regional governments, friends and allies through the media. The there is foment within the upper levels of the national security apparatus on this important question can be "amplified" in a way that convinces regional friends and allies that we are taking this threat seriously.
When it comes right down to it though, I think the State Department (60%) is our most likely culprit for the leak. Political types there--with personal stakes in the success of President Obama's policies--including engagement--want to see the Secretary of Defense embarrassed and isolated. Portray him and his ilk as a bunch of warmongers not given to letting the fine art of diplomacy run its course, while we Mandarins of foreign policy here at Foggy Bottom run the show and are TRULY loyal to the President.
I just can't see how this memo signals a good thing for the Administration.
Cross-posted at Information Dissemination
Saturday, April 17, 2010
There has been a good bit of talk here on the blog and on the radio program about the recently released Brookings statistic that indicated 47% of wage earners either pay no income tax or actually get money BACK from the government. Many Conservatives--myself included, believe that this is an unhealthy state of affairs for our country. Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review does not agree. One picks a disagreement with Mr. Ponnuru at one's own peril, as he is not only one of the smartest Conservatives out there, he is unbeatable in a serve and volley blog debate. But because I am unaware of Mr. Ponnuru's reading habits, I will assume he doesn't read this blog and will proceed to take him on.
First, some background on how we got to where we are. The incomparable Keith Hennessey reminds us all that it was largely REPUBLICAN policies that accelerated the removal of so many people from the rolls of those paying income taxes in the first place. Additionally, a kindred spirit of Ponnuru's on the Weekly Standard blog makes the point that a widely distributed (or even universal income tax liability is "wildly ahistorical".
Here's the gist of Ponnuru's argument from a blog entry on The Corner: "Most conservatives are convinced that it's a major problem that 47 percent of Americans pay no income taxes. I'm not. The argument -- which has been steadily picking up adherents on the Right for ten years -- is that people who pay no income taxes are likely to perceive big government as a free good and therefore become more supportive of it than they would be if they paid income taxes. A secondary argument is that it is important, as a matter of both morals and civics, for everyone to pay taxes."
Ponnuru further points out that "the distinction between income taxes and payroll taxes" probably doesn't strike the people who pay them as deeply meaningful.
Ponnuru wraps up his argument--like any good analyst--by searching for signs of its confirmation in data. This he finds here: "Another difficulty for the thesis: Attitudes toward government do not appear to have become more liberal as the number of people paying no income tax has increased. In August 1992, Gallup found that 50 percent of Americans thought that "government should do more to solve our country's problems" Gallup asked the same question in June 2008 and got the same results. No clear pro-government trend can be found in other polling results".
So, to summarize the arguments against everyone paying income taxes I offer the following:
1. Such broad-based tax liability is ahistorical.
2. People who pay no income tax but who do pay payroll taxes do not distinguish between them.
3. Because there has been no increase in the general acceptance of a more liberal approach to government, there is insufficient evidence to support the commonly made assertion that people who do not pay income taxes are more likely to be pro-government.
I take each in turn.
1. The historicity of a broad-based income tax liability is interesting, but irrelevant. Truth is, we didn't even HAVE an income tax in this country for its first 126 years; so the fact that it has evolved from very narrowly focused pre-WWII to more broadly based post-WWII seems to suggest that the GENERAL trend over time has been to MORE broadly institute it, rather than less broadly--the last twenty years have been the exception--historically.
2. That people without income tax liability do not consider themselves as not "paying taxes" (as I see Ponnuru's argument) is again--interesting, but irrelevant. The fact is--they are not contributing to the everyday operations of the federal government--from which they are deriving benefit. That they pay into insurance programs from which they will likely one-day handsomely benefit (and in the case of social security--to an extent far in excess of what they have paid it) adds weight to the requirement that they do so. Put another way--because Ponnuru believes that they don't make this distinction matters not to those who do--the 53% of the American public who ARE paying for the contributing operations of the federal government over and above that which is destined to come back to them in entitlement benefits.
3. Ponnuru's point about there having been no increase in general liberal attitudes toward government as there has been a decline in the percentage of workers who have no income tax liability is simply incomplete. His statistic is a blunt instrument--measuring only a general inclination across an undifferentiated sample. What would be meaningful to me would be some way of distinguishing among socio-economic groups. Has the tax paying portion of the spectrum become less liberal about the role of government while the non-tax paying portion has become more? Could the flatness in the sample be explained in such shifting proportions? We don't know--because the statistic just doesn't prove what Ponnuru thinks it does. It would also be interesting to look at the voting patterns of those in the "no liability" category. Would Ponnuru be satisfied if the data revealed a heavily Democratically skewed result? Or would that simply show that poor people vote Democrat?
Again--Ponnuru is a brilliant thinker--and to his credit--he wants to see hard data that indicates that not paying income taxes is in some way connected to a nascent movement to more radically redistribute wealth before he gets onboard the bandwagon to institute a mandatory "contribution" level (in my estimation, 1% should be the bottom bracket, even if tax credits indicate money coming back from the government. Once a taxpayer's credits get them to the 1% level, the credits would have no impact). I can't give him that data. I can give him the benefit of the ancient Greeks--who told us that the natural devolution of democracy is to the tyranny of the mob. I can give him the growing evidence that it is an important political objective within the modern Republican Party that all citizens have some continuing responsibility to fund the operations of the government.
I am coming to conclude that this will be an important issue going forward--one in which in the interests of a perceived sense of "fairness", Republicans will wind up supporting a broad-based tax increase--largely aimed at eliminating the pool of no income tax liability workers. This will put both parties in unusual positions--Republicans supporting a tax increase, and Democrats walking away from it. We shall see.
This entry really does a great job of laying out the tensions between the different tribes who pow-wow under the Conservative tent (laid bare a bit yesterday by my post on Tea Parties).
I'll summarize it this way--there is the intellectually motivated policy wonk think tanky crowd (my homies, though they'll surely never have me), there's the "movement" Conservatives (Radio, Foxnews, Tea Parties, etc) and there's the politicians. All three groups have to live with each other and for Conservatives to govern, they have to cooperate. But it's not always pretty.
I do think we're in a bit of an intellectual renaissance with respect to Conservative policy-making. Time in the wilderness will do that for an ideology, and I think we're making progress.
Douthat's analysis here is worth the read.
Friday, April 16, 2010
That said, this is a lovely column, evoking many memories in me of great teachers I had who challenged and inspired me. Art Sharon. Jack Kunz. Jim Forrest. John Jenks. Sam Evangelista. Men of great wit and learning, men of superb intellect and poise. Marianne Brindisi belongs on any list of great and influential teachers in my life, branding me with a love of the German language that persists to this day.
I come down on teacher unions hard in this column, but my goodness, how I respect teachers....ironic, and perhaps inconsistent. But it is what it is.
According to this story, a young man at Michigan State University has been arrested for pilfering some 79 "pairs" of women's "thong" underwear. That's right--the story certifies that all 79 articles were of the "thong" variety.
My question to those of you familiar with the "thong" variety of women's underthings is, exactly what is it a "pair" of? Seems to me that a thong is more like the "anti-pair".
I'm just sayin'.
I know we are in a recession. I know we've fallen on tough times. But I can't help but feeling that the extended benefit regime encourages people to stay unemployed longer (or more to the point, hold out longer for a better situation).
I am not alone.
So over the past few days, I've tried to turn the corner on that a bit. No, I did not attend a Tea Party rally, but I should have. I watched plenty of video, listened to lots of podcasts, and read a ton of interviews, polls and blogposts.
I see amazing positive energy, I see genuine love of country, and I see a mixed bag of free thinkers and those who seem to ape whatever it is they last heard on the radio or saw on their favorite conservative TV program. I am struck by some of the contradictions I hear. I simply LOVE listening to Seniors complain about socialist takeovers of the healthcare system, and in the next breath decry cutting medicare to pay for it.
What I like least of all though about the Tea Party movement is some of the speakers who whip Tea Partiers into collective frenzies, speakers who appeal to the lowest common denominator and who use simplistic and over the top rhetoric to drive home often very important points. For instance--Saxby Chambliss addressed a crowd yesterday and was presumably talking about tax code simplification--a worthy, important subject. How did it get packaged? A discussion of how he's working to get rid of the IRS, how he was working for a time in which "we" determined how much tax we paid rather than the government" (presumably a reference to a tax system geared to consumption rather than work/saving). Again--good topics to take on, but rhetoric so base and simplistic as to detract from the important policy questions.
I know, I know--some of you will think "but CW, you're an egghead policy wonk Bill Kristol Republican--Chambliss isn't talking to you". And you'll be right. But then you will have answered the unasked (thus far) question--"why isn't the CW more taken with the Tea Party movement". They simply aren't talking to the likes of me.
Another example of "they're not talking to me" was a clip I heard of Minnesota Republican Michele Bachman from one of the Tea Parties yesterday. Representative Bachman is a darling of the Tea Party movement, and has never met a camera/microphone she didn't like (me either). That said, when talking about (again) a very important topic--and that is, increased government intrusion into the marketplace--she cited the fact that this latest round began under a Republican President--when the Congress passed the $700B "bailout of the big banks--a bill that I did not vote for". Said with great pride.
So here we have a "spokesperson" for this movement proudly crowing about having rendered what I consider to be one of the most scurrilous votes Republicans made during the contagion that was the credit market melt-down. Now that the credit markets are ungummed, now that the Dow is up 70%, now that the economy is clearly recovering from the recession and now that it is increasingly indisputable that the $700B TARP bill saved our entire economic system--Representative Bachman excites a crowd by saying she did not support the only thing government has done in the past two years to actually MAKE THINGS BETTER. And the crowd loved it.
I can understand the revulsion that bailing out Wall Street causes in people. I can understand the disdain people have for the folks on Wall Street--aided and abetted by Congress and the Presidency (both parties)--who recklessly hazarded our Republic's financial health--but I cannot support ridiculous, demagogic rhetoric detached from economic and policy reality and promoting a vote which had it prevailed--would have sent this economy into depression.
There are tough problems out there friends, and the solutions will not be easy. I have a tough time thinking I will find them at a Tea Party.
"Another blogger wrote that it "seems oddly premature" to affix "Murtha's name to a ship while real and continuing issues of ethics violations and abuses of power remain fresh in the collective memory."
Wherever could they have found such eloquence?
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Here's Steny's riff: "it is difficult to pass budgets in election years because, you know, they reflect what is the status. And the status of this country was brought into deep debt by the economic policies of the Bush administration."
Notice the continuing reliance on the previous administration; notice the evasion of responsibility by the Majority Leader of the party in power in Congress since 2006. Notice what's missing here: any suggestion that such a budget might actually MITIGATE any of the debt we currently find ourselves in, whether legacy Bush debt (actually, Bush debt is the accumulated debt of the Republic, but that's another post) or Obama debt.
Obviously, they will eventually have to take up the budget--but it will be after the November elections.
Such courageous people, our Representatives in Washington.
• Stevens Retiring, Supreme Court nomination
• My definition of “Center-Right”
• 2012 Republican Race overview
• Confederate Week in Virginia
• Navy to name ship after John Murtha
Be sure to call in at (347) 637-2203 to air your views and join in the conversation.
Putting aside for a moment the continuing farce that is the Navy ship-naming convention, affixing Mr. Murtha's name to a ship while real and continuing issues of ethics violations and abuses of power remain fresh in the collective memory--seems oddly premature.
Additionally, the irony of US Marines riding to battle in a ship named for a man who so recklessly pre-judged the guilt of Marines involved in the deaths of non-combatants in Haditha, is manifest.
This is a poor decision, and it should be reconsidered.
Cross-posted at Information Dissemination
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
White House Officials indicated that Mr. Stern has yet to tell the President where to appoint him.
Methinks Jason Horowitz will find himself on the Gibbs Christmas card list now, and well maybe Gibbs will even answer his phone calls without evasion.
I love the reference the fact that Obama had slipped the press pool representative--as if he'd committed an impeachable offense. Good on Obama. We do not have a RIGHT to have his kids' soccer game covered, simply because the One attended. Why the Press thinks we do, or that it has some duty to cover it, is beyond me.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Have I mentioned how much I like taking the train? Anywhere? I have plenty of leg-room (not a trick when you are as modestly sized as I, but none of the big fellas look too cramped either), my cell-card is giving me access to the interwebs, I can get up and stroll about as I see fit and can simply stare in a daze out the window as I watch the various suburban and urban settlements of the Northeast reveal themselves to me--but only for an instant.
I could do this regularly--certainly more regularly than flying. Flying is such a bother--the train is simply a better way to travel--at least in this part of the country. We've had plenty of running gun-battles here about government financing for highspeed rail, but when I think about the stuff I want the feds involved in--and there isn't much--moving people and stuff around this great land of ours seems right in their sweet spot.
1. She'd be a reliable lefty vote
2. She'd bring the "politician" voice back to the Court some have longed for since Sandra Day O'Connor retired.
3. She'd be taken out--completely--as a political force to be dealt with (can you say Teddy Kennedy, 1980 Democratic Primary Challenge?)
4. As bruising as the fight would be in the Senate--it would be a whole lot LESS bruising than if they nominated some of the people they are currently thinking about.
I'm just sayin'.
UPDATE: I spoke (wrote) too soon.
Of course I would like to see a "mainstream" nominee from Obama--but Republicans have no right to expect it. ELECTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES, and we got pasted in 06 and 08. And by the way, I hardly think our friends on the left think John Roberts and Samuel Alito represented "mainstream" picks by George Bush--and we didn't care. We had the whip hand, and we used it.
What do we have? Well, we have the filibuster, and we ought to use it. But we shouldn't go around hoping that President Obama will all of a sudden see the light and nominate a moderate to the Supreme Court. That's lunacy.
"A strange elite I suppose likes and pays for the ambiance — that is, living among people like themselves — of upscale university centered communities. Why? I have a theory. It allows them to be liberal and progressive in the abstract, without having to live the logical consequences of their utopianism, or deal with the underbelly of American life. Take the most sophisticated Palo Alto dweller, and a week outside of Laton on a farm would make her, well, “seasoned” so to speak, and challenge much of her assumptions about wealth and poverty."
We really don't spend much time considering what poor in America means these days. Hanson does. He reminds us that it means running water, corpulence, air conditioning, cell phones, and flat screens. This "unjust" and "unfair" system of market capitalism has done a pretty fair job providing even its underclass a pretty fair deal.
All this courtesy Instapundit.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
What's To Like:
**It reduces warheads, but not by much
**It leaves our missile defense program untouched
**It is a place to "cooperate" with Russia on something constructive
What's To Dislike:
**Walking away from research and testing is a bigger deal than Chapman supposes; what incentive is there for top physicists to enter this research field anymore? So as the stockpile degrades and obsolesces, so will the brainpower.
**Reduction in warheads and the general administration view of a "nuclear free world" could send a message of weakness to nations who look to us for their nuclear umbrella (Japan, South Korea) that we're not such a reliable partner anymore. This could cause perverse incentives to build their own weapons.
What's Not To Get Too Excited About:
**Obama's repudiation of nucs against a non-nuclear nation, even if they use chem bio on us. First of all, this is like all political promises, breakable, and it would be if necessary. Secondly, more experienced wargamers can take me to task on this--but my sense in the wargaming I've done and read about is that it takes a BUTT TON of doing to get Americans to use Nucs in anything but retaliation for nuclear attacks on our soil. Obama basically has given away a use case we were highly unlikely ever to exercise--and he reaps from it (albeit from his already adoring international fan-base) the concomitant political praise of someone who has greatly compromised on something important.
Crossposted at Information Dissemination
This is how the left would have it; create entitlements (even when national debt is already out of control) then point back at the fiscal "crisis" to justify raising taxes.
Little or no talk of cutting spending, in this article or anywhere else.
I wish I were there.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Pretty much all the Republican contenders for 2012 are making the trek to New Orleans--including Governor Rick Perry of Texas who gave what the story writer called a "thundering" address. Perry's doing a good job in Texas (though Texas is a "weak governor" state), though I wonder whether the country would be willing to go back to that well again so soon after GWB. I'm going to learn a little more about Governor Perry to see whether there is any there, there.
Friday, April 9, 2010
Here's what Obama said:
“I really have no response to that. The last I checked, Sarah Palin is not much of an expert on nuclear issues,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
Pressed further on Republican criticism that his strategy restricts the use of nuclear weapons too much, Obama added:
“What I would say to them is, is that if the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff are comfortable with it, I’m probably going to take my advice from them and not from Sarah Palin.”
This is lashing out? Have we become so incredibly over-sensitized that this is what counts for "lashing out" in modern political debate? Fact is, HE'S RIGHT. When did Sarah Palin become a voice of authority on nuclear strategy issues?
I think we all need to stiffen our backbones a bit.
Unburden yourselves, people.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
The home, once owned by Dean Martin and later by Tom Jones, was described by one realtor as 'frat house bordello'. Sounds like someone's soon-to-be-former Arlington splash pad.
Cage's financial woes have recently become fodder for tabloids. In October, Cage sued his former business partner, accusing him in part of "lining his pockets with several million dollars in business management fees while leading Cage down a path toward financial ruin. "
If his partner was responsible for Cage picking his recent roles, there might be a case. NOT THE BEES!!!!
I'm glad he's doing it. Some think the Fed Chair should stay out of "political matters" (like raising taxes, cutting spending, etc)--but the more I hear Alan Greenspan pilloried for his tenure, the more I feel that the Fed Chair has become the uber-meister of the US economy as a whole--and as such, he should sound off when he feels we're headed in a bad direction.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
...the risk of the slippery slope appears to be a figment of Professor Whitman’s imagination, and clear evidence of his bathmophobia. To be fair to him, this phobia is hardly unique to him and Professor Rizzo. Slope-mongering is a well-worn political tool used by all sides in the political debate to debunk any idea they oppose. For example, when the proposal was made to replace the draft with an all-volunteer army, the opponents said this would inevitably lead to all kinds of disastrous consequences because we were turning our military into a band of mercenaries. The argument is perfectly versatile. If we allow (blacks, women, gays. . . .) into the military then (fill in the awful but inevitable consequence here). If we allow free speech then we will give voice to the next Hitler.
Instead of slope-mongering we should evaluate proposals on their merits. (We devote a chapter of Nudge to an evaluation of the choice architecture used in Sweden’s social security experience.) Helping people make better choices, as judged by themselves, is really not a controversial goal, is it?
1. Why Liberals Love Apple (not that some Conservatives don't also)
2. Nuclear Treaty with Russia/Nuclear Posture Review--why it is a good thing, and what might be some weaknesses.
3. A Discussion of Conservative Radio
4. Henry Waxman and the CEO Healthcare Shakedown
5. A Discussion of Immigration Reform
6. Great week in sports (NCAA, Masters, Start of Baseball)
You can catch the program on the web at The Conservative Wahoo Live!, and call in at
(347) 637-2203. I'd like to make a heartfelt request for more listeners to call in--your calls are what make the show, not my monotonous blather.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The incomparable Keith Hennessey weighs in on this issue with eloquence and precision I can only aspire to, as the Obama Administration implements yet another plan to "keep people in their homes".
His differentiation between fixed rate underwater mortgages and ARM underwater mortgages is a useful one from a policy perspective. If you're payment isn't changing (fixed), you have absolutely nothing to complain about if the value of your house declines (well, nothing more than any other investor who has suffered losses). If you have an ARM--well then--in the way of POLICY--there is more room for government assistance. Ideologically, I still think it stinks.
I once again make the one statement in this blog that may come back someday to kill my political career--and that is, the home mortgage interest deduction should be eliminated. Period. Kaput. It advantages one class of investment over others, it encourages people to buy more house than they can afford, and it skews investment portfolios--which should be diversified and balanced--to too highly weight real estate. The arguments about home-ownership being somehow related to better civic life are overdone, as study after study in Europe (where home-ownership is less) have shown.
"This would be no great concern, were it not for the tendency of the middle ground to shift over time. A newly adopted middle-ground quickly becomes the status quo. Then a more intrusive option takes center stage, and what used to be the middle-ground becomes one of the bookends. To take just one example, legally mandated enrollment in savings plans (with exit option) seems like the middle ground right now. But once it becomes standard, it will occupy the laissez-faire position. Then a “Save More Tomorrow” policy (with exit option) becomes the new middle-ground. And once that has been adopted, it too becomes the low-end, while automatic enrollment with freedom to choose your investments but without the option to exit entirely becomes the middle. By this route, a series of minor steps can eventually make even mandatory enrollment with specified minimums, highly restricted investments, and no opt-out seem like the “reasonable middle.”
Also, my traditional hometown football team--the Philadelphia Eagles--have traded their aging, injury prone quarterback (yes--Donovan McNab is both of those things) to the Washington Redskins. For some reason, people here in the DC Metro region think this is a good thing. I think it is yet again, a sign of Danny Snyder's incompetence. But what do I know.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Sunday, April 4, 2010
I will derive little pleasure from a Duke win--but will hope for it nonetheless.
But man, Butler winning would ROCK college basketball.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Of course, the central themes start with "win Congress and the Presidency", as would all attempts at repeal. This has been the sticking point for me, as I see those as more remote than some. But what Levin's done here is point out a number of structural elements of the bill that make it vulnerable. To use a war metaphor, this army (the bill) has extended supply lines that are vulnerable to attack--and in this case, it is the chronology of how the bill plays out over time.
I still see repeal as remote. I believe Republicans ought to be fighting for tort reform and market based enhancements. But I am persuaded that a repeal effort is not completely forlorn.