Wednesday, February 28, 2007
From the Boston Globe: "Pardons re-emerge as issue in Clinton run"
President Clinton's pardons have been a political issue for Hillary Clinton because of her ties to a number of the cases. In addition to the people who paid her brothers, those receiving pardons included commodities trader Marc Rich, a fugitive who was prosecuted for tax evasion by then-US Attorney Rudolph Giuliani and fled to Switzerland. Rich was pardoned after his former wife, Denise Rich, contributed heavily to Hillary Clinton's Senate campaign.Boy howdy, can you imagine this issue coming up during a Rudy-Hillary presidential debate? That's hot.
Controversy over the pardons was reignited last week after Hollywood mogul and former Clinton supporter David Geffen criticized the Clintons for the Rich pardon.
"It is a legitimate campaign issue," said Stephen Gillers, professor of legal ethics at New York University School of Law. He said that Hillary Clinton should answer questions about her brothers' and her own involvement in the pardons because "the stench of the Marc Rich pardon still stinks and it has never been adequately explained."
Extra - From RCP Blog: "Giuliani out front, Obama gaining on Hillary"
I stopped to get the following items: Hartz Joint Maintenance for my ancient dog, a box of Special K, and a can of WD-40. At the checkout, the cashier (ridiculously) asked if I was over 18 as the register display waited with a "Y/N". Huh? I had to ask and it turns out that you need to verify your age to purchase a can of WD-40 now.
I can only assume this is to keep kids from "huffing" the ubiquitous lubricant, but c'mon already. There must be a can of WD-40 available in every American home. Once again, the good intentions of the nanny state override the rough reality.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
It's bizarre to believe in this age of Google caches and screen shots that the Huffington Post thinks it can get away with mass censorship. What were they thinking? They'll probably claim they were trying to avoid a call from the Secret Service.
Extra - From Red State: "A parable for the Huffington Post"
From Fox News: "Wall Street Slammed After China Stock Woes"
Stocks had their worst day since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks Tuesday, briefly hurtling the Dow Jones industrials down more than 500 points on a worldwide tide of concern that the U.S. and Chinese economies are stumbling and that share prices have become overinflated.Every time the stock market drops, the anti-entitlement reform forces always point and cry: "See! You can't let people invest their own money!" Of course, the larger problem is that because of runaway entitlement obligations, the United States will be increasingly dependent on foreign lending from Asia to prop up our spiraling spending. So now when China gets a cold, America gets the sniffles. (Or is that vice versa?)
Monday, February 26, 2007
That's how the New Republic's Marty Peretz describes Bill and Hillary Clinton in this acerbic attack:
But David [Geffen] is certainly correct to call our attention to the Clintons' last act of presidential hauteur, and that is the pardons Bill and Hillary gave in the 24 hours before leaving office. First of all, there was the case of Marc Rich, zillionaire oil trader and tax felon whose ex-wife was a huge contributor to Clinton causes and one of Hillary's best pals. Rich also was living in Zug, Switzerland because he couldn't come in to the US without fear of being arrested. Now he can. Then there were the cases related to Hillary's brothers as lawyers and advocates. And the pardoning of Bill's brother. And on and on. Go to Google again, and type in "presidential pardons," "bill clinton," and "hillary clinton." You will be basting yourself in hog water. These are tell-tale enormities, more than 140 of them. Yuk.Hillary is deluding herself if she believes she can escape the tawdriness of the Clinton years by cutting off questions on impeachment, or pardons, or suddenly discovered Rose Law firm files.
I believe that deep-down the country agrees with Geffen. It does not want to relive the Clinton years. It was a tacky presidency, and the president's tackiness kept us from facing many dangers--including the perils of Muslim terrorism.
At the Libby trial today, one juror was dismissed for improper outside contact:
Fitzgerald argued in favor of adding an alternate to the jury, so that 12 could deliberate. That would mean that deliberations would have to start anew. Wells had argued that that would mean that two and a half days of deliberations would be thrown away. Judge Walton just ruled that deliberations will go forward with 11 jurors. If something happens to another juror, then there are two alternates who can be added, although that will mean going back to square one in the deliberations.This comment from Tom Maguire's blog suggests why the Libby defense didn't want to add the first alternate to the jury:
As [defense lawyer] Ted Wells delivered an emotional argument that Libby made "honest mistakes not deliberate lies" during the investigation, this juror sat with her arms crossed. She also clenched her jaw and rolled her eyes.Unfortunately for Libby, the Intrade betting odds for "Libby guilty" still stand at 75%. (Check the left column here.)
Could it be that the surge is working? It's "fish or cut bait" time for the Democrats.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Teams started out from Ecuador and need to make their way to Santiago, Chile. Before the flight, we're shown Drew suffering from altitude sickness and taking on some oxygen. Rob & Amber are shown checking in for the first flight to Chile and then Rob asks the agent not to tell the other teams about the flight.
What is the purpose of this other than to display Rob's typical annoying impishness? Oh, he's such a competitor. However, in a perfect karmic moment, his connecting flight is delayed and Rob & Amber are stranded with Oswald & Danny.
Once in Chile, it's a Roadblock and teams needed to search a boardroom for letters which, unscrambled, lead to the next destination. One of the Blondies defies stereotype and figures out the clue which leads teams to the largest open pit copper mine in the world ("Chuquicatama"?) Joyce seems oblivious to the other players checking the pictures on the wall which identify the next stop, driving Uchenna crazy as teams come and go. Does it matter? No: everybody's on the same flight to Chile anyway. Rob gets upset because Eric gets into a new line and even Amber is sick of Rob's double-standard silliness.
Once at the copper pit, teams face the Detour: By Hand or By Machine. Teams may either put lugnuts on the tire of a massive dump truck or use a front loader to pile up gravel. Rob & Amber finish first and have to head to the Valley of the Moon and the Pit Stop. David & Mary are last to leave from the Detour but Charla & Mirna ask for directions from a taxi driver and everybody passes them. They freak out like you won't believe, handing over every cent they have to the cabbie. But there's plenty of confusion to go around: Kevin & Drew don’t follow the speed limit rules, the Blondies turn around again and Charla & Mirna try to follow a cabbie yet again but get cut off. In the end, the exhausted team of Kevin & Drew couldn't take the heat and got out of the kitchen.
#1 - Rob & Amber, dammit
Eight other teams
#10 - Kevin & Drew - PHILIMINATED
Next week: Danielle doesn't like fish.
Extra - Check out recaps from Pat and Kris, for sure.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
If you liked the Big Dig, you'll love Boston's new $800 million convention center which is dripping water onto passersby. From the Boston Globe "Leaks splash visitors inside exhibit center - $800m convention facility has numerous design flaws":
Water seeping through the roof of the $800 million Boston Convention & Exhibition Center dripped on some visitors to the New England Boat Show this week, six months after state convention officials said that the public would never notice leaking and other structural problems in the massive building.I suppose if you're going to be hit by water, the boat show is the place to be.
Homer: (after watching Blockoland commercial) All right, kids ... who wants to go ... to ... Blockoland?The Simpsons strike again. Heh.
Bart and Lisa: Meh.
Homer: But the commercial gave me the impression that …
Bart: We said meh.
Lisa: M-E-H. Meh.
Friday, February 23, 2007
From CNN: "Proposed war resolution may spark Constitutional showdown"
The White House has made it clear that it would oppose any move to rewrite Congress' 2002 authorization.
Whether Congress can impose such restriction will draw robust debate. Constitutional scholars disagree on whether Congress can dictate to a president when and how he can deploy troops or whether that would impinge on the president's authority as commander in chief.Oh really? I'm interested to know the names of these scholars who have discovered a clause in Constitution where executive power does not rest with the executive. But since Congress doesn't have the conviction to stop the war constitutionally (by cutting off funding) the Democrats need to extend their election position and make believe it's leadership. How feckless is this posturing? Here's one law professor in "Repeal of war authorization may create constitutional minefield":
But as lawmakers craft their latest Iraq strategy, they could be entering either a constitutional minefield or an exercise in futility
"I have never, ever heard of a declaration of war being taken away," Ruth Wedgwood, a Johns Hopkins University international law professor, said Friday. "It's certainly constitutionally ambitious, if not outrageous."And here's another law professor:
"If the issue came before the Supreme Court, my guess is the court would hold that Congress has the power to repeal the use of force just as it can repeal any other statute," said University of Virginia law professor Robert Turner. "However ... any such effort would have to be submitted to the president and could be vetoed."Forget the fact that any "do-over" legislation would be blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster or possibly a Lieberman flip. I wonder if the Democrats, who have a very good chance of capturing the White House in 2008, want to establish a precedent where Congress can restrict the powers of the commander-in-chief. The Founding Fathers set up this separation of power to prevent the legislative branch from interfering with executive power. If the Democrats feel the war is lost, they should find the courage to cut off funding and end American involvement in Iraq. Otherwise, they should stick to soundbites and shelve this Constitutional sham.
Extra - Kim Priestap on Wizbang: "It's disgraceful and dangerous what these Democrats want to do, and they must be stopped."
More - AJ Strata: "Democrats need a lesson on the US Constitution"
Thursday, February 22, 2007
At least tomorrow is Friday. Until then, here are some scattered posts to check out on Iraq, Democrats, Iran, Rudy cruising in the polls, and Nancy Pelosi. Enjoy.
Yesterday, during a Democratic forum, Governor Tom Vilsack suggested that Social Security should be indexed to prices instead of wages to extend the program's solvency. From his campaign blog:
I believe that Social Security and Medicare are too important to ignore. We have to fix the long-term solvency and we have to consider a variety of options. I talked about some of those options yesterday.And why not? All that price indexing means is that the Social Security benefit paid out to retirees today will have the same purchasing power as in the future. See, wasn't that easy? Apparently not for some blogs on the Left who reflexively oppose any Social Security reform where the current path to bankruptcy shall not be challenged. For example, here's an odd criticism towards egalitarianism:
Or, in short: within 80 years or so, Social Security becomes a program in which no one gets more than what the poor get today.Yeah, the rich deserve more!
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Since President Bush started his effort to reform Social Security, the seniors lobby AARP has fought personal accounts tooth and nail. But even the vaunted AARP can't escape the numbers, so today we find this improbable headline on Politico: "AARP to push for Social Security fix"
Don't get too excited, especially if you're under 30. The AARP polling arm called 1,514 people and - surprise, surprise - a majority agree with the AARP's position that Social Security can be saved if we just raise taxes yet again:
Of eight possible options, a majority of respondents favored three measures that would raise revenue for Social Security in some fashion: increasing the income cap to $150,000; increasing the payroll tax by 0.5 percent for both workers and employers, and changing the benefit formula to make the program more progressive.Let's recap: one of the country's largest lobbying groups, whose sole purpose is to influence federal policy to funnel cash to seniors, sponsors a survey on Social Security. That survey finds that Americans don't want their benefits cut but are willing to let other people (the rich and young) pay for them. This is the gimme gimme logic of eight-year-olds, not eighty-year-olds. At least it should be.
Efforts to raise the retirement age, change the longevity index, cut benefits for new retirees and implement modified price indexing were opposed by large margins.
Extra - FactCheck analyzes AARP's temporary Social Security fixes.
From LGF: "Honor killing in Britain"
After Mrs Riaz’s father died she “suddenly felt less beholden to Mohammed”, a friend said. “She started to develop her own circle of friends and allowed the girls to express themselves in a more western way.”You can see where this is going.
She began to work with women who felt suppressed by Asian culture and many saw her as a role model for young Asian women.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
I realize it's fashionable to blame President Bush for every malady under the sun, but here's another example of Senator Splunge taking a point too far instead of just shutting up. From Inc magazine's interview with the sometime Senator:
Emphasis added. Really now, what evidence does Kerry have that the Bush administration is deliberately putting the screws on micro-loans? Or is it just the standard coda for every left-wing statement to tack on a dig at Bush? Considering that throughout much of Dubya's presidency the prime rate has been at near-historical lows - and thus credit is easier to obtain and afford - it would suggest that Kerry's response is just his typical brand of Brahman bull.
What else can the government do to foster entrepreneurship?
The most important thing is start-up facilitation. That can be in the form of capital programs, networking, mentoring, and other opportunities. Another way is through micro-lending. It's a shame to see that program under so much stress with this administration.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Well, I got a couple of comments and Emails wondering why I haven't done an Amazing Race All-Stars update. Here's why:
Rob & Amber from Survivor, Survivor All-Stars, and the seventh season of TAR - who have already won a million dollars in Survivor - are back yet again. There's not a whit of spontaneity here: every word that tumbles out of Rob's Boston mouth is designed for the television camera only. Somebody on another team said that America is tired of Rob and Amber and he's exactly right.
Uchenna & Joyce - They won a million dollars on TAR7 and now they get another chance. Why? Among 100 former teams, I guess there were no other couples that deserved a second try.
David & Mary and Charla & Mirna - Easily two of the most annoying teams in the history of the show. They should have given Kris & Jon or Lena & Kristy another roll in the hay (inside joke).
Anyway: here's the 411. Teams started out from Miami and had to go to Ecuador. Find a restaurant and sleep for the night. Leave at staggered times in the morning for some big national park where it's recommended that teams enter through the North Gate. (Foreshadowing!)
At the park, it's the Detour: teams may either search the park for parts of a military uniform or lasso a horse and cut its hooves. Except they don't have to lasso the horse and the local cowboys do all the hard work, so nobody does the uniform search. Some teams, naturally, enter through the South Gate and it takes them an extra hour to get to the task. Kevin & Drew from season one get a flat tire and continue to drive on it anyway, probably figuring that the TAR production staff will pay for the new axle. In the end, the odious Rob & Amber come in first, John Vito & Jill are eliminated and Kevin & Drew just barely make the cut for the next leg.
Extra - If you want a more enthusiastic review, check out Kris's take. Also, Pat has a good review for all you TAR fans.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
In a finish that would have been rejected by a Hollywood hack as too contrived, Mark Martin was nosed out by 0.02 seconds by Kevin Harvick to win the Daytona 500. It was Martin's 23rd attempt to win the NASCAR classic and his best chance since leaving Roush Racing last year after a twenty-year partnership.
My NASCAR fantasy team was cremated after Kurt Busch crashed into race leader Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin was forced off-track by Jimmie Johnson, and Kyle Busch wrecked on the final turn. Still, the new batch of TV commercials were pretty good.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
I dislike so many things personally and politically about Hillary Clinton, but here's a twist I didn't see coming: she's simply not going to apologize for her Iraq war vote. From the NY Times: "Clinton Gives War Critics New Answer on ’02 Vote"
Yet antiwar anger has festered, and yesterday morning Mrs. Clinton rolled out a new response to those demanding contrition: She said she was willing to lose support from voters rather than make an apology she did not believe in.No more pandering from a Clinton? Hard to believe. But, as always, there's the political motive:
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton believes that reversing course on her vote would invite the charge of flip-flopping that damaged Mr. Kerry or provoke the kind of accusations of political expediency that hung over Al Gore in 2000 and her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, in the 1990s, several advisers said. She has argued to associates in private discussions that Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry lost, in part, because they could not convince enough Americans that they were resolute on national security, the associates said.But can Hillary? Sure, she's sat on the Senate Armed Services committee, but I'm not sure if that's the kind of experience that convinces voters you're ready to be Commander-in-Chief.
A would-be hijacker was subdued in the Canary Islands when the pilot realized he didn't speak French:
Along the way, speaking to the hijacker, the pilot realized the man did not speak French. So he used the plane's public address system to warn the passengers in French of the tactic he was going to try: brake hard upon landing, then speed up abruptly. The idea was to catch the hijacker off balance, and have crew members and men sitting in the front rows jump him, the Spanish official said.Ouch. Boiling water on top of a beating? That's Walker Texas Ranger justice.
The pilot also warned women and children to move to the back of the plane in preparation for the plan , the official said.
It worked. The man was standing in the middle aisle and he fell to the floor, dropping one of his two pistols. Flight attendants then threw boiling water from a coffee machine in his face and at his chest, and some 10 people jumped on the man and beat him, the Spanish official said.
Up in New Hampshire, two Democrats aiming to occupy the White House admitted that the non-binding resolution on Iraq is just a waste of time:
Even as House members solemnly voted on what some called a historic resolution condemning the Iraq war, two Democratic presidential contenders campaigning in New Hampshire yesterday dismissed the vote's importance.Thanks for the heads up, Dodd.
Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico said the Democrat-led House and Senate were "wasting" their time debating nonbinding resolutions over troop deployment levels because such resolutions would do little to change the situation in Iraq.
"Look, I served in Congress for 15 years, so I know what they are trying to do," Richardson said in an interview. "I know this is getting a lot of headlines, but it does nothing to change the reality in Iraq or the fact this president is just not listening to them."
Meanwhile, another Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, told business leaders at a "Politics and Eggs" breakfast in Bedford that he believed the nonbinding resolutions wouldn't do much to change Iraq.
"This was debating about debating," said Dodd. "The fact is we need a new policy in Iraq, and none of these resolutions do that."
Friday, February 16, 2007
Here's Harry Reid whining about those durn Republicans blocking a vote on the meaningless non-binding Iraq resolution:
"We demand an up-or-down vote," Reid said Thursday. "The resolution says we support the troops and oppose the escalation of the presence in Iraq. We're determined to give our troops and the American people the debate they deserve."Sure, as long as that debate doesn't include any mention of GOP-sponsored resolutions. Hey, good luck with that Harry.
Update: Oh no! Harry Reid is going to make Senators work on Saturday. On Saturday! "After four years of fighting in Iraq, and two weeks of trying to force senators to debate the conflict, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday wheeled out the ultimate weapon: he ordered his colleagues to work on Saturday." All that's left now for the Republicans to do is shut down the Senate and the cycle of pettiness will be complete.
It's making the rounds in the critical primary state of New Hampshire. From the Boston Globe: "Fiscal wake-up tour's inconvenient truth"
..it came courtesy of David Walker, the country's comptroller general, Bob Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and Alison Fraser, director of economic policy studies at the Heritage Foundation , who are tilling the ground for truth as part of the "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour."Testify, brother.
Their message was stark: With the boomers set to begin retiring, the long-term costs of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will soon start to explode -- and unless this country deals with those expenses, huge problems lie ahead.
"Whether you are liberal, conservative, middle of the road, Democrat, Republican, Independent, the numbers don't add up," says Bixby. "It's a matter of arithmetic, not ideology."
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Riddle: Why did the mosque's imam cancel the Friday prayer service?
Answer: Because he was angry that Iraqi security forces found the mosque packed with assault rifles.
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." - C.S. Lewis
From the Boston Globe: "Patrick targets pension systems"
Governor Deval Patrick is proposing a tough new mandate for the state's cities and towns: If your pension system isn't performing, we're taking the money and investing it ourselves.It's for your own good.
As part of a municipal relief package Patrick is to unveil today, approximately one-third of the state's 107 public pension funds would be forced to turn over nearly $5 billion in assets for investment by the state.
Extra - From Wizbang: "Global warming - it ain't happening"
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Almost too good to excerpt, I beg you to read Robert Samuelson's "The Stubborn Welfare State" posted over on Real Clear Politics. Because of a dearth of political courage, we've now reached a moment in budgetary history where all we can do is stand back and watch the expanding blob of entitlement spending:
Annual budget debates are sterile -- long on rhetoric, short on action -- because each side blames the other for a situation that neither chooses to change. To cut spending significantly, conservatives would have to go after popular welfare programs, including Social Security and Medicare. To raise taxes significantly, liberals would have to go after the upper-middle class, a constituency they covet (two-thirds of all federal taxes come from the richest fifth). Deficits persist, because neither side risks its popularity, and indeed, both sides pursue popularity with new spending programs and tax breaks.As I've noted before, those promises will be kept until they're not and then it will be too late for gradual changes.
It might help if Americans called welfare programs -- current benefits for select populations, paid for by current taxes -- by their proper name, rather than by the soothing (and misleading) labels of "entitlements'' and "social insurance.'' That way, we might ask ourselves who deserves welfare and why.
We could consider all of federal spending and not just small bits of it. But most Americans don't want to admit that they are current or prospective welfare recipients. They prefer to think that they automatically deserve whatever they've been promised simply because the promises were made. Americans do not want to pose the basic questions, and their political leaders mirror that reluctance. This makes the welfare state immovable and the budget situation intractable.
Talk Left says Libby may walk: "Once the jurors try to figure out motive, even though it's not a necessary element of the charged crimes, I call a draw. Fitz just didn't establish motive beyond a reasonable doubt."
But Tom Maguire sees hope for the prosecution: "For symmetry's sake, I think Fitzgerald has a chance, too."
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Hours after the agreement, the Norks announced they would close the reactor "temporarily" in exchange for 1,000,000 tons of fuel: "In a sign of potential problems to come, North Korea's state news agency said the country was receiving 1 million tons of oil for a "temporary suspension" of its nuclear facilities -- and failed to mention the full disarmament for which the agreement calls." Yeah, whatever.
Notice a trend? From MSN "The best and worst states for taxes" here are the top and bottom five on the list with percentage of total federal, state, and local taxes. Also, if you look at the list, you'll know why I never buy my gas in Connecticut:
1. Connecticut - 35.9%
2. New York - 35.1%
3. New Jersey - 34.3%
4. Washington - 33.7%
5. Minnesota - 33.6%
46. Tennessee - 28.2%
47. Oklahoma - 28.2%
48. Mississippi - 28.0%
49. Alaska - 27.9%
50. Alabama - 27.5%
Surprisingly, Massachusetts just missed the top 5, landing at #6. Hooray?
This seems like good news, possibly a direct result of the surge. Of course, he's all but admitted that he's just going to lay low in Iran until the heat is off:
Anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has fled his Baghdad stronghold for the friendly confines of Iran's capital, FOX News can confirm via a senior United States official.Let's just chalk it up as positive propaganda for now.
Al-Sadr left Iraq within the past few weeks out of fear for his safety and security and is with family in Tehran, where he has visited before, the official said.
His move comes as coalition forces crack down on the insurgency in Baghdad and ahead of the arrival of 21,500 U.S. troops sent by President George W. Bush to quell sectarian violence.
Monday, February 12, 2007
Sunday, February 11, 2007
It's the same old story: when there's only one supplier for a certain commodity and no competition to drive down prices, it's the consumer who always suffers. This is true even when the commodity is blood and the supplier is the Red Cross:
Massachusetts is the only state that does not allow any private groups other than the Red Cross to collect or distribute blood. Although the Red Cross cannot charge for the blood itself, the not-for-profit can charge hospitals a fee to cover the costs of collecting, testing and distributing blood.And since we're talking about monopolies, this letter writer to the WashPost has precisely pinpointed the national boondoggle that is ethanol. Everybody wants clean-burning fuels, but national policy is set up to protect the corn growers first:
The state's hospitals say the law gives the Red Cross a virtual monopoly and drives up prices. The hospitals are pushing a bill to allow other groups to compete for the blood business.
Hospitals in Massachusetts are spending up to 25 percent more per unit of blood than hospitals in other states, a cost that forces up the price of health care when the state is trying to rein in the cost of health insurance, he said.
"There's no competition," he said. "That means contracts for blood are basically a take-it-or-leave-it proposition."
Feb. 1 letter writer Jon C. McKenzie correctly suggested that sugar cane is a far more efficient source for ethanol than corn. But we can't use sugar for ethanol in the United States because Congress maintains a massive sugar subsidy program that keeps the price of sugar here roughly double the world price, too expensive for ethanol production. And similar political favoritism prevents us from importing ethanol (or sugar to make it) from Brazil. We impose a 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on sugar ethanol and strictly limit sugar imports. Consumers and taxpayers pick up the tab, and multimillion-dollar agribusinesses reap the benefits.Exactly right. If we're serious about ethanol, Congress should eliminate the corn monopoly and allow for free competition to benefit everybody (except for politicians who have to travel to the Iowa caucuses.)
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Friday, February 09, 2007
What's worse, a tax hike actually does very little to make Social Security sustainable. It just buys time. We'll just have to come back and raise taxes again at some point. The tax hike in the 1983 reform didn't create lasting solvency, did it? And we don't even need to raise taxes to rescue Social Security. We just have to wean ourselves from the wage-indexed benefit growth promised under current law. Benefits can grow at the rate of inflation without higher taxes -- but not at the rate of wage-gains.My opposition to an increase in Social Security taxes is fundamental: at some point, Americans have to decide that the program is just not worth the money. When Social Security was started, the original tax rate was 2%; now it's 12.4% and 70% of American pay more in FICA taxes than in federal income taxes. It's time to say: enough.
P.S. - Please excuse my use of a Holocaust reference to make a political point.
Hot Air eviscerates the WashPost's late-day correction "WaPo quasi-retracts page-one story about Feith Iraq/AQ intel": "This is a "correction" in the same way Crocodile Dundee's knife was a knife."
Thursday, February 08, 2007
From ABC News "Efforts to set up benefits talks sputter":
Back-channel efforts by the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats to begin trying to negotiate a solution to the fiscal problems of Social Security and other federal benefit programs appeared to collapse Wednesday.There's a shocker. It seems that the White House has taken tax increases off the table:
But Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., accused the White House of acting in bad faith at a panel hearing that turned acrimonious over White House Budget Director Rob Portman's unwillingness to acknowledge that tax increases should be part of any fix for Social Security's long-term problems.Unlike the President, those fair-minded Democrats are willing to discuss all options to reform Social Security, as long as they're the right options:
Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the chairman of the Finance Committee, a critical venue for any Social Security plan, said he too believed the president must give up his private accounts before serious talks could occur. If so, he added, "I'm more than open, if the president is truly willing to look at all options."Classic.
Extra - Thank heaven the government didn't impose those high-return personal savings plans on us.
From Fox Sports: "The times in NASCAR, they are a changin'"
From the cars - changes in shape and manufacturers - to the competitors to the way the series will be promoted, this season will represent the furthest departure from racing's roots since strictly stocks took to the Carolina clay in 1949.Included in the mix-up this year is the Car of Tomorrow, the Junior drama, and the introduction of Toyota into the previously All-American lineup.
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Things are getting worse - faster - in Zimbabwe as hyperinflation sucks the life out of the economy. Two weeks ago, all the civil workers in the country received a 300% pay raise which was immediately swallowed up by skyrocketing prices:
Pay increases have so utterly failed to keep pace with price increases that some Harare workers now complain that bus fare to and from work consumes their entire salaries.After chasing away the white farmers, Zimbabwe is facing starvation, so the government is trying to help keep the tractors running:
Seeking to revive farm production, for example, the government sells gasoline to farmers at a bargain rate of 330 Zimbabwe dollars per liter - and farmers promptly resell it on the black market for 10 times that, leaving their fields idle.But have no fear. Robert Mugabe (who blames his countries problems on a "Western plot") has a unique approach to the hyperinflation ravaging his country. He simply made it illegal:
Despite acceptable rains, one international aid official said, Zimbabwe’s corn crop is currently lagging behind last year’s - and that harvest was among the worst in history.
The central bank's latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who raises prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a "firm social contract" to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono.Sounds like a plan.
The speech by Mr. Gono, a favorite of Mr. Mugabe, was broadcast nationally. In downtown Harare, the last half was blacked out by a power failure.D'oh!
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
In anticipation of the Beijing Olympics, China is cleaning up their imperfect English translations that have bemused travelers. From the Wall Street Journal: "Tired of Laughter, Beijing Gets Rid Of Bad Translations - Many Expats Regret Loss Of Wacky English in Signs; 'Slippery Are Very Crafty'"
For years, foreigners in China have delighted in the loopy English translations that appear on the nation's signs. They range from the offensive ("Deformed Man," outside toilets for the handicapped) to the sublime (on park lawns, "Show Mercy to the Slender Grass").You don't want to know what they used to call the new "Hospital of Proctology."
Yes, President’s Bush 2007 budget is massive, a full trillion dollars over the budget he submitted in his first year in the White House. But his lack of fiscal conservatism is mitigated by a meaningful approach to Medicare reform. Here’s National Review’s editorial "Entitlement Credit":
The reality, though, is that it doesn’t much matter whether the budget is balanced in 2012 or 2013, or whether the deficit in 2010 is $90 billion or $150 billion. The true crisis lies in the long-term unfunded liabilities of our entitlement programs. Bush's budget begins to grapple with this fact by reducing the subsidies to upper-income retirees for services they receive under parts B and D of Medicare. Parts B (outpatient services, as contrasted with hospital visits) and D (the prescription-drug benefit) are not covered by the payroll tax, and retirees must currently pay a premium for them. Bush’s plan would use means testing to adjust premiums more appropriately based on a recipient's ability to pay. There is no good reason retirees who could easily pay their own premiums should receive public assistance that dumps trillions of dollars in liabilities onto future generations.I don’t focus on Medicare as much as Social Security but the fact is that Medicare's unfunded liability is projected to rise at a much higher rate than Social Security. This is a step in the right direction.
And it is trillions. Bush’s changes to Medicare would, over the next five years, save some $66 billion; other savings would raise that number to just under $96 billion. These are not impressive numbers in the context of the overall budget. But over the long term, Bush's plan would slice $8 trillion - or more than 20 percent - off of Medicare’s $39 trillion unfunded liability. That is nothing to scoff at.
Monday, February 05, 2007
Extra - Don’t let these numbers and facts on ethanol confuse you either.
More - From RCP blog "McConnell 1, Reid 0"
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Best commercial: the Bud Light spot where the couple driving on a desolate road picks up a hitchhiker with Bud Light...and an axe. But he's got Bud Light! (The axe is just a "bottle opener.")
Saturday, February 03, 2007
From the Economist: "Religion in China - When opium can be benign"
Many local governments in rural China are mired in debt. Recent central government efforts to keep peasants happy by abolishing centuries-old taxes have not made life any easier for these bureaucracies. With their revenues cut, rural authorities have found it ever more difficult to scrape together money for health care and education. So they are only too happy to allow others to share the burden of providing these services - even the Black Dragon, whose 500-year-old temple was demolished by Maoist radicals during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Now officials in Yulin, the prefecture to which Hongliutan belongs, give the temple their blessing.It would seem that Communist China is communist in name only: first capitalism takes hold and now religion is being allowed. It's like watching the second half of "Animal Farm."
Very little hope escapes from the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. From the Boston Globe: "Report says Iraq could be torn apart - Analysts see fleeting chance for stability"
The report by President Bush's top intelligence analysts said that if the violence continues to get worse, there are three possible outcomes: The country will disintegrate into three separate enclaves (Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish), a strongman will seize power, or anarchy will set in, bringing with it "the greatest potential for instability."Although the report holds out hope for a national reconciliation, it also states that all progress towards that goal could unravel with a high profile attack.
Update - A high profile attack like this: "At Least 121 Killed in Homicide Bomb Attack at Baghdad Market"
Friday, February 02, 2007
The Boston Globe objected to Jim DeMint’s swipe at Ted Kennedy in an editorial today titled “The Big Dig slur.”
This comparison makes no sense. The artery/tunnel project, for all its troubles, is finally done, and the federal government capped its contributions seven years ago. DeMint's tax cuts would cost the government money it could use on other highway projects year after year.So there you go: a tax break for small businesses could have gone to Washington where it would be used to pay for successful projects like the Big Dig. What a compelling argument.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Which it is not, but people gotta have stuff:
People once again spent everything they made and then some last year, pushing the personal savings rate to the lowest level since the Great Depression more than seven decades ago.That’s OK: the Boomers will just vote to take all my money once theirs runs out. Seriously though, although economists tie the spending binge to a run-up in real estate and investment portfolios, I think it’s because credit has become so pervasive and accessible that Americans just purchase goods without thought to the cost or consequences.
The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the savings rate for all of 2006 was a negative 1 percent, meaning that not only did people spend all the money they earned but they also dipped into savings or increased borrowing to finance purchases. The 2006 figure was lower than a negative 0.4 percent in 2005 and was the poorest showing since a negative 1.5 percent savings rate in 1933 during the Great Depression.
Whatever the reason for the low savings, economists warn that it the phenomenon exists at a particularly bad time with 78 million baby boomers approaching retirement age. Instead of building up savings to use during retirement, baby boomers are continuing to spend all their earnings.