Friday, December 31, 2010

Binary date 1-1-11

Happy New Year, loyal readers. This will be the first new year since 1999 where there won't be two zeros in the year to make silly eyeglass lenses. Have a good one.
Slow news day, NY Times? - Breaking news from New Mexico! "No pardon for Billy the Kid."

Now nobody can say that Bill Richardson is soft on 19th-century crime, so you can just forget about it Henry Wirz.
Somebody should do something about these insolvent public pensions. Well, goodbye! - NY Daily News: "Gov. David Paterson sounds pension alarm on last day in office."
Here they come - CBS News: "Medicare bound to bust as first Boomers hit 65."

Extra - Powerline: "Catching on to the entitlement disaster." Welcome to the party, pal!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Hey, they really are the chosen people - Hot Air: "Huge natural gas reserves found off Israeli coast." If there's one thing I know, it's that large energy sources have a stabilizing effect from Venezuela to Yemen.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

This week in security theater

While TSA agents spent the holiday making sure there were no explosives in your testicles, a .40 caliber gun in a carry-on bag took off from Houston and a checked bag full of bullet primers exploded on the tarmac in Miami.

In other pat-down news, my nipples explode with delight:

Spreading the wealth around - WashPost: "Masked 'Hillary Clinton' robs Virginia bank."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Strange numbers - The General Accountability Office (GAO) has problems with the accounting at a major institution.
The "Oliver Twist" states - California, New York and Illinois may find that 2011 is the "Year of Insolvency" and they'll be approaching the federal government - bowl in hand - for "more."
So good that nobody wants it - The Boston Globe reports on the Obamacare program for high-risk patients: "Last spring the Medicare program's chief actuary predicted that 375,000 people would sign up by the end of 2010. In early November, the Health and Human Services Department reported that just 8,000 had enrolled."

Despite the low participation, the article reports that medical expenses for the program have been "much higher than anticipated." Uh-huh.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Not as much fun as the "Best Movies" list - Heritage: "Top 10 Charts of 2010."

Extra - Some other year-end lists from Protein Wisdom.

More - Politico: "Best quotes of 2010." Yes, the rent is too high.
Seeking sunnier climes - High tax states are losing taxpayers: "States taxing themselves to death." And - surprise, surprise - guess which New England state has the highest per-capita state tax burden in the country? It starts with "M" and ends with "assachusetts."

More - From Q&O.
It's come to this - Cities are hitting up churches and charities, because only the government can help you now. WSJ: "Strapped cities hit nonprofits with fees."
"We must now be unfair to someone" - This too-good-to-excerpt Robert Samuelson article confronts the dilemma that America faces by failing to honestly address entitlement spending. Either we pare back on Medicare and Social Security (unfair to seniors) or we impose much higher tax rates on workers (unfair to future generations). The alternate choice is to continue to pile up unprecedented peacetime debt levels and risk the implosions of Greece and Ireland or the slow decline of Japan.

More - From Douglas Holtz-Eakin.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas all - After watching "A Christmas Story" about eight times today, I noticed that the Old Man is never directly privy to the information that Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. He just knows.


Friday, December 24, 2010

The "You'll shoot your eye out" remix

Merry Christmas, everyone:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Headline of the day - From northeast Wales: "Ysbyty Gwynedd reject staff criticism on snow transport." I think it's a town.
Canary in the Alabama coal mine

The NY Times has a story this morning about a town where the pension fund ran dry, and it couldn't pay out promised benefits. So they didn't. Take note of "Alabama town's failed pension is a warning."

Yeah, it's against state law, but you can't squeeze money from a stone. This sentence in particular could have been lifted from any one of my dozens of posts on Social Security and/or pension reform: "...if nothing changes, the money does eventually run out, and when that happens, misery and turmoil follows."

That's depressing. You know what's easier? Let's just pretend that the Social Security Trust Fund is a real thing, piled high with saved cash. Ahhhhh...much better. Now who wants hot chocolate?!

Extra - WSJ: "For cities and towns facing unsustainable pension costs, the end game may look something like Prichard, Alabama."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We're going to make Obamacare work if it kills you - Like any government policy that runs against the headwinds of public opinion and the free market, the Obama administration is resorting to price controls to "make" Obamacare work. They won't and never have. Reason Online explains the pretzel logic of deciding if insurance companies are raising rates too much: "Unreasonable if excessive, excessive if unreasonable."

Flashback - And what happened in Massachusetts after price controls? Boston Globe: "Primary care doctors harder to find, report says." You can have all the inexpensive and available health care you can find as long as you can wait 50 days.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dot.Com is presumed to be OK - Tracy Morgan and Grizz both had kidney transplants this year. What's going on over at "30 Rock"?
The states and the pension problem - It's likely that Robert Samuelson wrote his article about the unfunded liabilities weighing down the states with debt before last night's episode of "60 Minutes." Bottom line: a lot of states owe a lot of money they don't have, meaning that either government services will need to be slashed or the states will need to default on promises made to government workers.

By the way, did you know the U.S. Debt Clock will also break down debt by states? Here's Massachusetts.
Stuff you don't wanna do - It's the individual mandate again. Hit & Run: "No, Congress has not regulated inactivity before."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Brick-and-mortars hitting a wall - I was in the local mall Friday and, man, the place was empty for a week before Christmas. This may have something to do with it: "Thanks in part to free shipping, online holiday shopping up 12%." It will be interesting to see how the sales tax revenues compare since Massachusetts upped the rate from 5% to 6.25%.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Averting the crisis - Cato at Liberty "Omnibusted": "Only substantial spending cuts combined with a reduction in the scope of the federal government's activities can prevent a fiscal calamity."
Health care reform fight moves to the Sunshine State

It sounds like the federal judge in Florida is not impressed with the Administration's argument for the individual mandate. WSJ: "Judge leery of health mandate"

Ian Gershengorn, a Justice Department lawyer representing the administration, said the health insurance market is unlike any other, since all Americans at some point get medical care. Requiring them to carry insurance is just a way of regulating how they pay for it, and preventing all those with insurance coverage from subsidizing the cost of others' uncompensated care, he said.

"It is not shoes, it is not cars, it is not broccoli," he said.

Judge Vinson took issue with the suggestion that the uninsured don't pay for their care. He said he was uninsured in law school when his son was born, and joked that the delivery bill came to about $100 per pound. "I paid it," he told the court.
Whoops! It's the old-style individual mandate.

Extra - Reason: "Health insurance is neither shoes nor broccoli - good to know!"

More - And here's Florida's attorney general writing in the WashPost today.
This means something - After some grandstanding, the House passed the Bush tax cut extension tonight: "Congress sends tax cut bill to Obama's desk." So deficits will widen (again) but the recovery is so fragile, we can't let tax rates rise. I guess - I'm conflicted.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

This was so cool back in 1982

Trillion dollar baby - Opinion Journal: "The 111th Congress's final insult." "The worst Congress in modern history is true to its essence to the bitter end."
Ebay payback - I don't know if this story is true (probably not) but it's sure funny: "How I got an uncooperative eBay buyer to pay for her purchase." (h/t Fark.) The comments are good, too.
Twisted history - The Foundry: "The use and abuse of the Founders: the individual mandate is still unprecedented and unconstitutional." Quote: "The Second Militia Act of 1792 neither sanctions nor foreshadows the individual mandate in the recently passed health care legislation."
Well this just makes no sense - After passing an unpopular health reform bill, running up trillion-dollar deficits, working to raise taxes, and failing to pass a single appropriations bill to fund the government, I just don't understand this headline from Gallup: "Congress' job approval rating worst in Gallup history."

C'mon January and bring on the Slurpee sippers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The "Children of Men" scenario

Megan comments on "The preposterousness of the Commerce Clause":

On a reading of the commerce clause that allows the government to force you to buy insurance from a private company, what can't the government force you to do?

This doesn't seem to be a question that interests progressives; they just aren't very excited about economic liberty beyond maybe the freedom to operate a food truck. And so they seem genuinely bewildered by a reading of the commerce clause that narrows its scope, or an attempt to overturn the mandate even though this might lead us into a single payer system. If you view this solely as tactical maneuvering, perhaps it really is preposterous.

And of course, for some conservatives, these operations are tactical, but for a lot, it's an actual horror at the ever-expanding assertion of government powers. I'd like it if they'd get equally horrified about, say, the TSA and the drug laws, but there you are: neither side is as consistently supportive of liberty as I'd like.
I was thinking about the P.D. James book (and similar movie) "The Children of Men" set in a dystopian future of mass infertility. As the population ages and dies away, there are no children being born to support the creaky, desperate society. I know this is bit of a stretch but what if the government declared that – in the interest of regulating commerce and keeping the factories running with workers – birth control should be outlawed?

Preposterous, I know. But this is the question that I keep seeing over and over again: what can't the government force you to do? We laugh about "eating broccoli" and "compulsory exercise" today to keep health costs down but the much larger concern is what portion of freedom we're willing to give up for health care. The individual mandate is a novel and unexplored extension of what used to be a limited government.

I hope the liberal supporters of health care reform understand that once they cut down the laws to get what they want, the devil may turn around on them.
News unfit to print - A Washington Post poll found that support for Obamacare has hit a new low, therefore the newspaper reported it nowhere.

Related - They can't hide the truth over at MSNBC.

Monday, December 13, 2010

So long, and thanks for the speech Bernie Sanders - Politico: "Tax deal advances in Senate."
Today's Obamacare ruling

WSJ: "Judge Calls Health Law Unconstitutional" The ruling stands on the position that the high-water mark of the Commerce Clause doesn't extend to coercion to purchase a product:

Judge Hudson, of the Eastern District of Virginia, said the individual mandate "would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers."

He added: "At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance-or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage-it's about an individual's right to choose to participate."
And here's some more commentary from the lawyers at Power Line and Legal Insurrection. Also, as noted at Hot Air, Judge Hudson rejected the "now you see me, now you don't" argument that the penalty for failing to carry health insurance falls under the government's power to tax, when this very idea was rejected in both the letter of the law and the debate for passage.

Extra - Good stuff from the Minuteman.

More - Whoops, here's some salt in the wound: "Coinciding with a federal judge’s ruling invalidating a key element of the health care reform law, an ABC News/Washington Post poll finds support for the landmark legislation at a new low – but division on what to do about it." Medic!

And this - Maggie's Farm: "Virginia, Severance & Section 1501."
Rest in peace, Richard Holbrooke - I heard on NPR today that his initial emergency surgery took twenty hours. Obviously there was a lot of damage from the aorta tear.
Breaking: Federal judge rules Obamacare individual mandate unconstitutional.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Amazing Race finale update – Nat & Kat win the Amazing Race!

We're down to the final three teams: Team QVC, Team Surgeons, and Team Faceless Young Couple; I'm kinda hoping one of the all-female teams wins the one million-dollar prize tonight. I'm also hoping that TAR will offer up a different kind of challenge at the end since everyone (now) knows it's going to be a recap of the season.

Jill & Thomas leave at almost 4 am from Korea to the final destination at Los Angeles. Brook & Claire are a half-hour behind, followed by Nat & Kat a couple minutes later. Everybody's on the same flight so it's an even match heading back to America. Once in California it's a race to Long Beach and the first challenge: teams have to climb a crane and then do a bungee jump. Nat from Team Surgeons is terrified of heights, so this one might be a problem. But she muscles through and they do the quick drop. Brook from Team QVC, on the other hand, does a lot of screaming.

After the bungee drop, teams take their next clue which directs them to a helicopter and a surprise destination. Everybody's pretty close together. Nat & Kat arrive first at the Rose Bowl and they take tag #1 at the next clue box. It's the Roadblock: one team member must decorate a float for the Rose parade with hundreds of flowers. This looks like it could take hours. Nat finishes first and Team Surgeons takes the next clue, which is in puzzle form, so they need to figure out where to go.

The first clue is "I am Sancho Panza's master." Is that Don Quixote? Yep, they need to go to Quixote Studios. Jill & Thomas gets a driver who has never heard of the Internet. Ha! He keeps saying "I have GPS" which doesn't have Google. Team Surgeons arrives first and it's time for a video challenge and there's Bob Eubanks who will give teams the next clue.

This is a good one: teams must identify from a huge video screen the eleven country greeters they met at each Pit Stop along the Race. Brook & Claire stop to look up the location on the Internet. Meanwhile, Jill & Thomas are just yelling at people in LA to help with the Internet but nobody seems to know what they're doing. Nat & Kat make their choices carefully (if slowly) then take their clue from Bob Eubanks. It's now a race to Greystone Mansion and the finish line. It's looking really good for Team Surgeons since the other teams haven't even arrived at the final challenge yet.

Team QVC arrives at the video challenge next. Team Surgeons are in traffic but this is an obvious ploy to build suspense. Brook & Claire are now heading to Beverly Hills and the finish line. Jill & Thomas are lost with the worst taxi driver in California – this is one of the variables of the Race. They're trying to make it look close between the two all-female teams, but Team Surgeons arrives first and Phil declares them the winners of the Amazing Race. Nat talks about completing the Race even though she has diabetes, and Kat says some nice things. They were really a good team who never really yelled at each other and were generally supportive the whole time.

Brook & Claire arrive next and we're shown Claire's melon-to-the-head shot again. Jill & Thomas are next. It's hugs all around and time for the final photos. In the coming attractions for next season (in only two months!) it's being called "Unfinished Business" but essentially it's an all-star race with previous non-winning teams given a second chance.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat – WINNERS
#2 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#3 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
John Galt and the quiet magician - I have all of Penn & Teller's books and loved them long before their truth-telling Showtime series. So imagine my added surprise to find that one of Teller's favorite books is "Atlas Shrugged." He also gets a plug in for the Amazing Randi.
Social Security will be cut, one way or another - Writing in today's Boston Globe, Robert Pozen clears up some of the myths about Social Security and the recommendations for reform put forward by the deficit commission. The one critical thing to remember is this: it's useless to rail about "cuts" to the system since they're already in place. His closing sentence: "Most importantly, it is overly simplistic to say that the proposal "cuts" Social Security benefits because the current system has only enough money to finance three-quarters of scheduled benefits starting in 2038."
That's football weather! - It's near white-out conditions on Soldier Field as the New England Patriots face off against the Chicago Bears. Full-out blizzard snow with high winds.

And here's a video of the Metrodome collapsing due to heavy snow. You'd think they would design for that Minnesota.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The self-esteem movement run amok

In my learned and, well, awesome opinion, I think narcissism is a nuisance, but not a disease.

Crazy stuff I found out today - Ken Jeong, who has appeared as a doctor in "Knocked Up" and as Senor Chang in "Community" is an actual medical doctor.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Teleprompter down, Obama goes to his back-up

The video is bizarre. After inviting former President Clinton to the White House to pitch tax policy, President Obama ditches Bubba at the press conference so he can go to a Christmas party. Bryan Preston discusses the optics:

Here’s what I saw. I saw a current president who has never looked less interested in doing his job. I also saw a former president who never lost interest in doing that job. Obama’s demeanor and body language suggested that he’d rather be anywhere but where he was, and then he followed through and actually bolted for the door. Clinton’s demeanor was that of a passionate wonk trying to sell a policy he actually cared about, that he thought would be good for the country. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t even his own policy that he was selling.
I saw a president who, for a few minutes a least, ceded his job to his predecessor. He’d failed to sell his own policy, so he needed and got some rescue from Clinton.
This was the third press appearance President Obama has made this week, and it was far and away the weirdest presidential press briefing I’ve ever seen. Where Obama goes from here is anyone’s guess.

Where does Obama go from here? If history is any guide, it's from the Christmas party to the golf course and then it's time to shoot some hoops with the Lakers. There's a reason that people are asking if he's going to be a one-term President that has nothing to do with his Administration. The Obama Show is wearing thin.

Extra - Jim Treacher: "Did Obama just quit?"

Man plans, God laughs - And sometimes the Big Guy is just havin' fun: "Cancun is hosting the U.N. conference on man-made climate change - amid record cold temperatures."

Extra - Legal Insurrection: "Irony hits Cancun at full force."
Festival of lights

Waiting for jobs - Businesses have a lot of cash, but there's that uncertainty. WSJ: "Companies keep a tight grip on cash."
Looking for leadership on the deficit - There's something both sad and unsurprising in this Bloomberg headline: "Americans in poll say cut deficit with entitlements secured as rich pay up."

Impossible. There's no level of taxation of the "rich" which will pay for the accumulations of promises in Medicare and Social Security. Taxes will need to go up on everybody and we're going to have to curb entitlements to get close to a manageable level of deficit spending. Don't look for anybody in Washington to step up to reality.

Extra - Here's a relevant update: "November federal budget deficit highest on record."
I'm back! - What a crazy two days: winter concerts and Christmas scrambling.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cops call it "handcuff courage"

It's when perps (usually impaired by alcohol) start acting tough the very moment they have the cuffs slapped on or they're put in the back seat of a cruiser. Then they're ready for a fight.

Thus, these headlines: "Democrats could scuttle Obama-GOP tax deal."
And from The Hill: "Senator Durbin: Dems could walk out on tax-cut deal."

Arrrgh! Did you hear that liberal base? Dems are angry too! And whose fault is this? Well if you listen to the stereo speakers of Barack Obama and Byron York, it's your fault. Wow, politics really does make strange bedfellows.

Extra - Angry callers crash the White House phone lines.
Joe Biden said that? - Today on Memorandum, it appeared that they were linking to a Washington Post story by the Vice President titled "Obama: On the way to a failed presidency?" It wouldn't be his first gaffe.

Monday, December 06, 2010

F-bombs and assorted unsavory references

Well, it looks like President Obama has struck a deal with Congressional Republicans, who are essentially in charge now. The Bush tax cuts will be extended for two years, payroll taxes will see a temporary cut, the estate tax will stay at 35% instead of 55%, and unemployment insurance will be extended to 13 months for certain tiers.

As a deficit hawk, I'm not thrilled about the tax cuts but I also recognize that the economy is fragile and raising taxes in a recession is crazier. I think Cato director Chris Edwards has it right here: "The message of the election was not that Americans thought their taxes were too low, but that the government was too big." Spending is the problem in search of leadership.

But, man, I've been checking out some of the liberal blogs and they really, really hate this tax deal, Obama, and the Democrats in Congress. Oh they're angry at the Republicans but much more at the Democrats for alternately failing to pass the middle-class tax cuts before the midterm elections, or using their large majorities to push through their own tax plan, or for failing to go to the brink and throw the issue into the next Congress.

Hey, let's keep it clean. There are kids on the Intertubes.

Extra - In between the clamoring for primary challengers, I thought this comment was kinda funny: "I think Obama is positioning himself for the 2012 GOP nomination."
Can't blog, watching football - Big NFL matchup tonight: Patriots and Jets, both 9-2, are fighting for top dog in the AFC.

Update - End of the 1st and it's all Patriots, baby. 17-0
Halftime - It's 24-3 Patriots. I think Tom Brady will grab the record for most consecutive wins at home tonight.
Start of the 4th - 38-3. The line on this game was 3.5 points. Well, I guess I can go to bed.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Amazing Race – A little bit of Seoul (alternate headline: Seoul survivors)

With four teams remaining, this will be the last regular episode before the season finale. One team will certainly be eliminated (that is, Team Vegas) and the last three will head on to the million-dollar final leg of the Race. Teams left Hong Kong and headed to Seoul, South Korea; once at the airport, teams need to drive to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) near North Korea. The instructions that the teams receive have a warning: "Don't cross the border." Uh, yeah.

The teams arrive at the airport and we find that the first flight to Seoul leaves at 12:25 am, which means that Team Vegas – even with a six-hour penalty – may make the late flight. There's some creative editing to give the impression they may make the flight, but they don't. Team Vegas is told the next flight is 9:30 the following morning so this means their six-hour penalty has now turned into a nine-hour penalty. Team Vegas is so far back that we're probably going to see Phil greet them at the airport in Seoul to say "never mind."

In Korea, teams find a bridge where they're told they need to raft down a river to the U.S. Military base Camp Casey. Jill & Thomas take a small lead, followed by Team QVC and Team Surgeons. An all-female team has never won the Amazing Race but one of these might make it. At Camp Casey, teams find the Roadblock: one team member must choose a headband and try to match it among 200 soldiers practicing Tae Kwan Do. Jill & Thomas finish first and head to Seoul World Cup Stadium.

Here at the stadium, it's the Detour: Full Throttle or Full Bottle. Teams may either speed skate 24 laps or deliver ginsing roots to a pharmacy. The ice skating isn't timed, so I think it's probably best to just "speed" skate around the rink. Brook & Claire are shown getting into a cab when the clue clearly said to either go by foot or subway. However, this is probably a 30-minute penalty at the mat. Nick & Vicki are way, way behind so this isn't going to save them from elimination. Team Faceless Young Couple and Team QVC finish speed skating pretty close together.

Meanwhile Team Surgeons hasn't arrived yet and Team Vegas is lost in Seoul following some guy who said he could lead him to the first clue. Team QVC get to the next clue which directs them to the Temple of Heaven which is the Pit Stop. I fully expect they'll be told they're the "first team to arrive" and not "Team #1" since they're going to get a penalty.

As I predicted, they're the "first team to arrive" and they're hit with a 30-minute penalty. (Man, I've been watching this show a long time.) Jill & Thomas arrive next and slide into first place. Team QVC is checked in next and it looks like Team Surgeons will be there soon. Team Vegas is driven straight to the military base where they perform their Speed Bump of cleaning a tank. It looks like they were then driven directly to the Pit Stop to face the music.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
#2 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#3 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat
#4 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki – PHILIMINATED

Next week: Season finale. I'm rooting for one of the two all-female teams.
"Fair Game" - The Washington Post editorial page pans the movie that nobody's seeing anyway: "full of distortions - not to mention outright inventions."
You're not as confused as Obama - This is one of these times when I invoke my "Spinal Tap" rule where any article that mentions the greatest rock group ever gets a link. Here's Glenn Reynolds in the Washington Examiner: "Obama presidency turns government up to 11."

Friday, December 03, 2010

Get happy!

The world is moving towards the healthy, wealthy corner:

Dick Durbin said that? - Writing in the Chicago Tribune, the assistant Senate majority leader explains "Why I'm voting 'yes'" on the deficit commission plan. On NPR yesterday, I heard Durbin taking the perfectly reasonable position that raising the Social Security by one year (to 68) over a timeframe of 40 years is not a radical shift. What's this strange feeling in me? Respect? No!
Waiting for Recovery Summer Fall Winter Spring - Good gravy, $787 billion in stimulus and (almost) no jobs in sight: "Unemployment rises to 9.8%, only 39,000 jobs gained." Unexpectedly, of course.

Related - Washington Examiner: "Washington is why the economy is not growing."

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The 19% limit

Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie excoriates Fareed Zakaria's latest article and schools him on the limits of deficit cutting by raising taxes. Here's the graph:

It's a simple, plain, and nearly universally unacknowledged fact that the feds haven't been able to raise revenue much past the 19 percent of GDP bar for any period of time since World War II. Doesn't matter the the top marginal rate is, or the bottom, or nothing. The government is going to pull in just under 19 percent maximum. Some years it might be a bit higher and some a bit lower, but it ain't budging over the long haul (defined as the last 60 or so years). That is the limit of what we can spend if we want to have a balanced budget. Obama's own budget projections have the feds spending more than 22 percent of GDP each year over the next decade. You do the math.
Raising taxes will not constrain spending since it's been calculated that every new dollar in taxes leads to $1.17 in additional spending. We're now borrowing forty cents for every dollar spent by the federal government; lenders are not going to let cheap credit flow forever. Spending needs to get in the same ballpark as revenues.

Extra - Whoops! Did I say 40 cents? We're now borrowing 43 cents for every dollar spent. Don't try this at home, kids.
Stop and START – George Will notes that President Obama seems awfully insistent about ratifying a treaty with Russia of marginal importance. I suppose it would be wrong to suggest that he cares more about ticking something off his "achievement" list than allowing the Senate to perform their traditional duty.
Well knock me over with a feather

Hot Air: "Deficit commission: Obamacare savings are a myth"
Remember how Democrats boasted that health reform would cut the budget deficit by $170 billion over the next decade and far more after that? The deficit commission must not have gotten that memo. It says health spending projections under the new law “count on large phantom savings” and the reform law’s new long-term care program that the report calls “unsustainable.”
If I remember correctly, some of funding for the health care bill depended on allowing the automatic Medicare cuts to occur - cuts that nobody believed would happen. And they didn't.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Set your bookmarks - Jennifer Rubin, who is one of my favorite (ex)-bloggers at Contentions is now writing at a new Washington Post blog called Right Turn. Her must-read early morning preview, formerly known as "Flotsam and Jetsam" is now "Morning Bits." Good luck, Jen.
Back in black - That's where the deficit commission wants to take us. Slate: "Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles try to scare America into doing something about the deficit."

Maybe I'm wrong about the deficit. But maybe I'm right and the consequences of inaction are going to be wrenching for America at that tipping point when lenders decide it might not be a good idea to lend us some more cash. Because that's panic time, baby.

"Game over, man! Game over!"
Hitting the kids again

The Minuteman takes note that a Virginia judge upheld Obamacare's individual mandate, and makes this observation:
Let's see - should I buy the kids a laptop to help them get ahead in school or plunk down a few grand to subsidize some geezer's health care today and make sure that I will be cared for in forty years? Tough call!
That's an important consideration for all you young workers (and Obama voters): not only will you see your Social Security benefits slashed and your Medicare assistance disappear when you turn grey, the individual mandate requires you to contribute to a system where almost all the benefits will flow to older Americans. None dare call it a tax and we pinky-swear those health care benefits will be around when you need them.

Extra - From Reason Online.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Escape from the Taliban - Heard this on NPR today: New York Times correspondent David Rohde was abducted by the Taliban and held for seven months while they tried to secure an outrageous ransom. His captivity and daring nighttime escape to a Pakistan military base are the subject of a new book called "A Rope and a Prayer."
The obligatory Wikileaks post – Christian Science Monitor: "WikiLeaks Top 5 Revelations."

I think the big news of the document dump is that the Middle East countries surrounding Iran, especially Saudi Arabia, are secretly promoting a security position towards Iran that is indistinguishable - if not more aggressive - than the United States and Israel.

In other words: the enemy of my enemy.

Extra - The Atlantic: "By whatever means necessary."
Masked motorcyclists with magnetic bombs – This story is like something out of a James Bond movie: "Bombs kill Iran nuclear scientist, wound another."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Surely we'll not see a comic like him again - CNN reports that "Airplane" star Leslie Nielsen has died at age 84.
Amazing Race update – Hong Kong sushi

We're down to the final four and teams made their way from crowded Bangladesh to somewhat less-crowded Hong Kong. Jill & Thomas start out first and wisely head to a travel agency. It looks like everybody's going to be on the same evening flight which could be a little awkward for Team Faceless Young Couple who U-Turned Team QVC on the last leg. At the airport, Thomas tries to paint the U-Turn as a "compliment" because he characterized Brook & Claire as the strongest team. Team QVC isn't placated.

Once in Hong Kong, it's a dash for the ferry to an island and the next clue. Nick & Vicki just miss it because Vicki's asthma slows her down. Nick is as unsympathetic as ever and keeps griping like a five-year-old. Back from the island, teams are heading to a Chinese restaurant. Once there, it's the Roadblock: one team member must search through a buffet for pieces of food that are fake (plastic) using only chopsticks. But if they pick food that is real, they must eat it. Team Surgeons finish quick and head to the next clue near a statue of Bruce Lee.

This clue is the Detour: Ding Ding or Sampan. Teams may either ride along a trolley and search among the Hong Kong signs (at night) for clues to the Pit Stop; or they can deliver parakeets via the traditional Chinese boat to a designated boat in the harbor. Nat & Kat choose the birds while Jill & Thomas ride the trolley. Back at the Roadblock, Nick & Vicki arrive at the restaurant just as Claire looks like she's going to collapse from eating food. Suddenly, she bolts for the bathroom and there are some sickening sounds from the toilet. What's funny is that almost immediately after emerging from the bathroom, Claire finds the fake food and Team QVC heads off to the Detour.

Jill & Thomas give up on the trolley Detour and switch to the sampan; they quickly find their harbor boat ahead of Nat & Kat. But then there's a twist, Team Surgeons get a taxi ahead of Jill & Thomas so it's a race to Statue Square and the Pit Stop. Sure enough, Nat & Kat arrive first with the others close behind for the first two spots. Brook & Claire are still trying to find a home for their parakeets. Vicki can't find the fake food at the Roadblock and she also pukes in the bathroom. Nick floats the idea of skipping the Roadblock and taking the penalty which, by my guess, will be a couple hours so they're pretty close to done.

Back from commercial, Vicki says the penalty will be four hours; she gives it another shot. Eventually she finds the fake food but it looks like Team Vegas has been there a long time because you can see the kitchen staff standing around in the background. Brook & Claire are heading to the Pit Stop and the Amazing Race producers aren't even trying to make it look close. Nick is now whining on the sampan Detour and literally lays down on the deck of the boat while Vicki is left to look at harbor boats.

They get off the boat and take a six-hour penalty. Nick is a crybaby all the way to the Pit Stop where Phil tells them this is another non-elimination leg and they get to race again tomorrow. Team Vegas will be starting out the next leg at least six hours behind all other teams and they'll have to face a Speed Bump that will slow them down even further. The fact that they've made it this far in the Race is baffling but now I can't see them making it to the final three with such a handicap.

Final standings:
#1 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat
#2 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
#3 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#4 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki

Next week: Looks like the DMZ in South Korea.
Unexpected consequences redux - WSJ "Union drops health coverage for workers' children": "One of the largest union-administered health insurance funds in New York is dropping coverage for the children of more than 30,000 low-wage home attendants, union officials said. The union blamed financial problems it said were caused by the state's health department and new national health-insurance requirements." Whoops.
The underwear gnomes consult the Obama White House

1.) Get a lot of smart people together and talk
3.) Jobs!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The shortfall cometh

The New York Times (!) gets it right on Social Security:
No matter how you think of the problem, it's fundamentally the same: The government will not raise enough tax revenue in coming years to make good on the promises it has made. Social Security is facing a much smaller long-term shortfall than Medicare, but it's still facing a shortfall.
As the article reminds us, Social Security starts cashing in treasury bonds in 2015 and these bonds are exhausted in 2037 (or so), leaving behind an automatic 22% benefit cut to all future retirees. But once the SSA starts redeeming money from the Treasury in five short years, the federal government - which must honor the security - needs to find the money somewhere. That can only come from new taxes, spending cuts, or trillions in new borrowing.
Plans for today - Watching reruns of "Psych" on Netflix and digesting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Unexpected flaw in Obamacare: doctors want to get paid - Q&O: "The right to health care vs. the right to earn a living." Well at least we're going to start saving on Medicare expenses once the automatic 23% rate cut kicks in next week.
Will the next fiscal crisis start in Washington?

In the debate over economic policy, there are those like Paul Krugman and Nancy Pelosi who think the "bond monsters" are a myth. Then there are people like me and the Tea Partiers and the head of the FDIC who believe debt is a cause for real concern:

Unless something is done, federal debt held by the public could rise from a level equal to 62 percent of gross domestic product this year to 185 percent in 2035. Eventually, this relentless federal borrowing will directly threaten our financial stability by undermining the confidence that investors have in U.S. government obligations.
America's long-term debt obligations have been known for decades:

Retiring baby boomers, who will live longer on average than any previous generation, will have a major impact on government spending. This year, the combined expenditures on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are projected to account for 45 percent of primary federal spending, up from 27 percent in 1975. The Congressional Budget Office projects that annual entitlement spending could triple in real terms by 2035, to $4.5 trillion in today's dollars.
As I've noted before, this level of entitlement spending means that there will be virtually no money remaining to pay for all the other things we call "the government." To maintain the current proportions of government spending, the federal government would have to borrow more and more money at increasingly higher rates, since lenders are going to be skittish about any person/corporation/country already owing 100% of total earning power.
Stop (spending) in the name of the law - Is it now trite to repeat that "we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem?" In "There's no escaping Hauser's law" Kurt Hauser explains that tax revenues as a percentage of GDP is fairly constant at 19%, no matter the tax rate. Federal spending is much, much higher.
Presidential elbower paid off by the Koch Brothers - Michael Gerson: "Liberals resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems." Get well soon, Mr. President.
That pesky Commerce clause - The NY Times notes that a federal judge in Virginia is putting the stink eye on Obamacare's principle tenet that people can be compelled to purchase health insurance: "Administration is bracing for setbacks to health law."

Most legal opinion I've seen so far holds that Congress can do whatever the heck it wants but I can't understand how a law designed to regulate the exchange of goods across state lines can be used to regulate the non-purchase of services within state lines.

Extra - Althouse notes there's no severability language; if the individual mandate goes, it all goes.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

As we gather for Thanksgiving

Let's give thanks for freedom. Reason: "The Pilgrims and property rights."

The Emerald Isle - Let me atone for some, um, misstatements on Ireland by linking this Megan McArdle post: "7 thoughts about Ireland." NPR also had a good review on yesterday's All Things Considered: "How Ireland's bank bailout shook the world."
Nauru is number one - Eight Pacific island nations are on the list of the world's top 10 fattest countries. Isn't that weird? You'd figure the diet would be mostly fish and fruit.
Jobs are back! Well, not so fast.

WashPost: "Fed lowers economic expectations for 2011": "Unemployment is set to remain higher for longer than previously thought, according to new projections from the Federal Reserve that would mean more than 10 million Americans remain jobless through the 2012 elections - even as a separate report shows corporate profits reaching their highest levels ever."
Ezra beclowns himself on Social Security

In mock seriousness, the WashPost blogger presents a graph showing how Social Security benefits will decline under different deficit-cutting scenarios. Meanwhile, the "current law" line continues on it's merry way with this disclaimer:
It's worth noting that the "current law" line is looking at what Social Security promises to pay out under current law, not what it can afford to pay out under current law.
Emphasis added to indicate fantasyland estimates. Everybody and his brother knows that under current law, Social Security is poised for an automatic 20% benefit deduction about 2037. Ezra Klein seems to believe that the illusion of government promises will outweigh reality.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Erin Go Broke

CNN: "Ireland requests billions in euro loans from EU"

Dublin had long publicly insisted it would not seek an external bailout, despite widespread concerns that a ballooning budget deficit and wobbly banking sector would further cripple the Irish economy.
According to this NPR story, the Irish are deeply humiliated that their once-robust economy is now forced to take an IMF bailout. It's funny how one day you're on top of the world and the next you're having terms of surrender refinance dictated to you.

On a totally unrelated note, can Republicans reign in spending to reduce the budget deficit? History is not kind and we're focusing on the edges:

Then the senator tells them what his party is going to do to bring the runaway federal budget under control. "We will vote to freeze and cut discretionary spending," he vows. What is important is not so much what is said but what is omitted. The four biggest items in the federal budget are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and defense. And those programs escape any mention from McConnell.
Robert Samuelson hit upon our national denial in "The Politics of Avoidance":

It's scary. From 2006 to 2035, federal spending goes from 20 percent of GDP to almost 29 percent. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (including Obamacare) account for all the increase. The reasons: More elderly people and climbing health costs. In 2035, the 65-plus population will be 93 percent larger than in 2010. Paying for bigger government would require a tax increase of about 50 percent. If we want to avoid a tax increase -- while honoring existing Social Security and health care benefits -- we'd have to cut all other programs by about 80 percent.
In other words, there is simply no way to avoid the fate of Greece and Ireland without addressing our spiraling debt and there's no realistic way to do this without paring entitlement spending. The sooner we can acknowledge this, the better for the country.

Related - Opinion Journal: "Higher taxes won't reduce the deficit."
The lightworker strikes again

Politico: "View from Mideast: Obama's a problem"

Even those who still believe in the process that Obama has championed view his conduct as a deeply unfunny comedy of errors.
Yeah, we're used to that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Amazing Race update – Bangladesh bricks

Five teams remain including three young couples and two young all-female teams. All started out in Muscat, Oman and need to make their way to Dhaka, Bangladesh which is described as the most populated city in the world. Teams are told there's a "Double U-turn" ahead which means that two teams will be required to complete two Detours (if memory serves). While everybody else takes the direct flight from Oman, Nat & Kat take a flight to Dubai with the hope they can find a connecting flight to Dhaka. Jill & Thomas persist and find a quicker flight through Qatar Airlines. Nick & Vicki also find another airline that gets in quicker.

Early in the morning, Jill & Thomas arrive at the market square where they need to make a sugar drink by turning a mill. They finish quickly then open the clue for the Detour: Balanced Meal or Balanced Bricks. Teams may either deliver a bunch of food containers or move 100 bricks to a boat. Jill & Thomas finish the bricks quickly and take their next clue. Meanwhile, Nat & Kat find they're on the same connecting flight with Chad & Stephanie along with Brook & Claire. After the brick Detour, Jill & Thomas U-Turn Brook & Claire, who haven't even arrived in Bangladesh yet.

Next up is the Roadblock: one team member must assemble a rickshaw. Jill takes on this challenge putting together the bolts and "bullets?" They finish fairly quick and head to the Pit Stop, far ahead as Team #1. Nick & Vicki are on the Detour, while the remaining teams are close together after getting off the last flight.

Nat & Kat complete the Detour and decide to U-Turn Chad & Stephanie which is sweet Karma since Chad was considering U-Turning Team Surgeons. Brook & Claire get to the U-Turn and discover: 1.) they need to complete the Brick Detour and 2.) they're ahead of Chad & Stephanie. Team Bickering Young Couple is in last place, very lost, and yet to discover they've been U-Turned; it looks very bad for them. Team QVC seems dehydrated as they arrive at the Roadblock; one of them says they're going to charge through the challenge "like a spider monkey." Shades of Talladega Nights! Team Surgeons leaves the Roadblock next.

Team QVC and Team Bickering Young Couple leave the Roadblock last and now it's a race to the Pit Stop. It's pretty close (even with TAR editing) but Brook & Claire make it to the mat first where Phil reminds them they're on track to be the first all-female team to win the Race. Recently engaged team Chad & Stephanie arrive last and they're eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
#2 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki
#3 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat
#4 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#5 – Team Bickering Young Couple – Chad & Stephanie - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Looks like Bangkok.
An unsustainable track - Let's listen to Senator Judd Gregg and Governor Rick Perry.

Dear NASCAR/France family: I'm done.

I've been a racing fan for many years. I have the scanners I purchased off Ebay for the races I attended at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. They're sitting next to my orange #20 Tony Stewart soft-sided cooler. I'm wearing my Lenox Industrial Tools 300 t-shirt as I type this. But I won't be renewing my "NASCAR Illustrated" subscription and I doubt I'll watch another race.

For today, Jimmie Johnson won his fifth championship in a row. How is this possible? He's so much better than any other racer? I have nothing against the guy, but I can't imagine how one driver can be so dominant over everybody else behind the wheel. It's boring and predictable and I have no interest in watching anymore.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Health care exchanges

Megan McArdle predicts that Americans will be disappointed with the new exchanges set up with the health care reform bill: "In health care, no free lunch."
What people are expecting seems to be a very expensive form of insurance (no gatekeepers or restrictions) on the cheap. What they're going to get is cheap insurance that they will be forced to buy.
Force seems to be the modus operandi of this Administration. So far, people aren't buying.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Surprise best-seller - NY Times: "Mark Twain's autobiography flying off shelves."
An accumulation of promises

NPR's Planet Money asks "Are the Social Security Trust Funds a mirage?" and explains the situation rather well. The trust fund is an accounting trick - money the federal government owes itself and promises to pay back. Now here's the critical thing to remember:

"The policy choices that we have to make good on Social Security obligations are exactly the same with the trust fund or if we'd never had the trust fund," MacGuineas says. "Raise taxes, cut Social Security benefits, cut other government spending, or borrow the money. That's the only way to repay the money."
Take a wild guess which option the brave souls in Congress will choose. Sorry kids (and grandkids)!
From the Golden State to "It probably won't turn your neck green" State – Jerry Brown has his work cut out for him. LA Times: "Poll: Californians want it both ways on budget."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Of course! - The rationale behind the TSA pat-downs suddenly comes into focus. Rick Moran: "The Conspiracy to make Amtrak profitable."
Meet the new G.M., same as the old G.M. - Detroit author Paul Clemens notes in the New York Times that today's temporary "win" over General Motors' IPO doesn't make up for the hollowing of a once-proud company in "The Ghosts of Old G.M." (Hat tip: TTAC).
It's like a flip book, but on toast

OK Go's latest video:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The other expensive time-bomb - The Bush tax cuts are set to expire on January 1st but on December 1st, doctors who serve Medicare patients will get hit with a 23% automatic deduction. This is the result of a decade of procrastination as Congress kept ignoring and overriding cost controls in the system. Reason: "Doc fix problem still not fixed."
Was this trip necessary? - So the ethics committee found Charles Rangel guilty of eleven violations of House rules. He can look forward to a sternly-worded letter and a paltry fine while he serves out his Congressional seat until he expires. Even the U.N. is laughing.
Stuck at 61 - When are they going to finish re-counting the ballots in the five undecided House races? I have +64 in the election prediction competition.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Derek doesn't like the new TSA procedure

Jeffrey Goldberg has a great suggestion for National Opt-Out Day (November 24th): kilts. If I could make a "Spinal Tap"-inspired suggestion, I'd go for the cucumber wrapped in aluminum foil. That will make for an interesting X-ray picture.

(Disclaimer: do not wrap anything in aluminum foil and put it in your underwear. That is all.)
In which I agree with Peter Orszag - The former OMB director thinks the Commission on the Federal Debt is (mostly) on the right track with regard to reforming Social Security.
The hangover

Robert Samuelson looks to Japan's "lost decade" (which continues today) and how uncertainty and deficit-spending are sending us down the same path:

So Japan's economy is trapped: a high yen penalizes exports; low births and sclerotic firms hurt domestic growth. The lesson for us is that massive budget deficits and cheap credit are at best necessary stopgaps. They're narcotics whose effects soon fade. They can't correct underlying economic deficiencies. It's time to move on from the debate over "stimulus."

Economic success ultimately depends on private firms. The American economy is more resilient and flexible than Japan's. But that's a low standard. Neither the White House nor Congress seems to understand that growing regulatory burdens and policy uncertainties undermine business confidence and the willingness to expand. Unless that changes, our mediocre recovery may mimic Japan's.
The rejection of President Obama's policies is the story of the midterm elections, obvious to everybody but Obama and Paul Krugman who wrote his hundredth column today on how the stimulus should have been larger.
But it feels so right - Somebody slashed the tires of those Westboro Baptist protesters who were disrupting another soldier's funeral. Well that's just terrible to confront free speech with violence.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Amazing Race update – Chad proposes in Oman

Teams start up in St. Petersburg and need to make their way to Muscat, Oman. Chad and Stephanie – whom I've dubbed "Team Bickering Young Couple" – oversleep by two hours and miss their starting time. No matter: all teams arrive in Oman and they are bunched up at some landmark waiting for it to open. As the dawn breaks, Chad drops to one knee and proposes to Stephanie, who accepts. The Amazing Race changes their description from "Dating" to "Engaged."

Next teams go up a mountain where they need to rappel down 500 feet to a canyon then find a ring among a bunch of "Aladdin lamps." Chad finishes first and they head off to their next clue at some big stack of books. Meanwhile Team Surgeons and Team Kentucky are way lost. Mallory starts praying to Jesus which is probably frowned upon in Oman.

At the stack of books, it's the Detour. Teams must chose between two tasks: Water Table or Wedding Table. Teams must either pump up some water and deliver to a house, or prepare a chicken soup for a wedding meal. Everybody picks the water which seems to be the better choice since there's a driver for the truck and basically the teams just need to direct the truck to the right location. Jill & Thomas finish first and head to the next clue which is just searching around a large bazaar. They complete their task and now it's off to the Al Alam Palace and the Pit Stop.

You can tell by the position of the sun in the sky that Team Kentucky is going to finish in the dark. Meanwhile, at the mat, Jill & Thomas arrive first and they're told they're the "first team to arrive" and not "team #1." It turns out they violated a rule about getting a taxi driver to guide them so they've incurred a half-hour penalty. In the interim, newly engaged Chad & Stephanie arrive and they are dubbed Team #1. Jill & Thomas then check in as Team #2. The Amazing Race producers try some creative editing to suggest the race is close but Team Kentucky arrives in last place and they're eliminated from the Race.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Bickering Young Couple – Chad & Stephanie
#2 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
#3 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki
#4 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#5 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat
#6 – Team Kentucky – Gary & Mallory - PHILIMINATED

Next week: Bangladesh.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

America purchases GM's lemon - George Will reviews the wreckage of the government's decision to bail out General Motors with a focus on the Chevy Volt: "The Volt was conceived to appease the automotive engineers in Congress, which knows that people will have to be bribed, with other people's money, to buy this $41,000 car that seats only four people."
Ecclesiastes 1:2 - Weekly Standard: "American Narcissus."

Friday, November 12, 2010

That's a skinny house - Via Maggie's Farm, here's an amusing account of spite houses on Wikipedia.
The deficit commission and Social Security

I'm sure I'm going to be writing about this subject quite a bit as the details unfold, but I think the deficit commission proposals are a step in the right direction with regard to reforming Social Security for the 21st century. Writing for the Atlantic, Clive Crook thinks so too "In praise of Bowles-Simpson":

Some of the proposals probably ought to be bolder. On social security, for instance, the main points are: index the retirement age to longevity in such a way that it would rise from 67 under current law to 69 only by 2075; make the benefit formula more progressive; and tweak the inflation-indexing formula so that it is slightly less generous. The savings add up; the changes would be phased in so gradually as to be imperceptible (except for the elderly poor, who would be better off than under current law). It's mild to a fault. I don't understand why so many Democrats are aghast at this.
In my opinion, it's ridiculous to say that a program formed when people where still using horse-and-buggies as a form of transportation must remain untouched in modern society. (Here I simplify: the FICA tax has marched steadily upward.) The default/do nothing option is to impose a 25% benefit cut starting around 2039. Better to take sensible, incremental steps now to secure long-term solvency than chop off benefits in a couple of decades.

Extra – Also in the Atlantic, Megan Mcardle: "On fixing Social Security, and the budget."

More - From Peter Suderman on Reason and SSA trustee Charles Blahous on Economics 21.
Obamacare bait and switch

George Will wonders if the health care reform law can be overturned on appeal because the legislation was fundamentally misrepresented in Congress:

Republican gains were partly a result of the "shock-and-awe statism" (Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels's phrase) of the health-care legislation passed in March. Seven months later, a federal judge in Florida, hearing arguments about the constitutionality of penalizing Americans who do not purchase health insurance, was bemused.

Lawyers defending the legislation said that the fee noncompliant Americans would be forced to pay is really just a tax. But during congressional debate on the legislation, Democrats adamantly denied it was a tax. So, in a rehearsal of an argument that will be heard by the Supreme Court, the judge said:

"Congress should not be permitted to secure and cast politically difficult votes on controversial legislation by deliberately calling something one thing, after which the defenders of that legislation take an 'Alice-in-Wonderland' tack and argue in court that Congress really meant something else entirely, thereby circumventing the safeguard that exists to keep their broad power in check."
Much as I'd like to believe that prevarication is a cause for appeal, I think it's more likely the Supreme Court will take the Democrats' "Animal House" defense:

A mighty, and lucrative, wind – Reason: "Corporate Welfare Watch: Wind Farm Subsidies"
What's that now? – Karl Rove quotes Sara Bareilles in "Obama has a listening problem." He listened, and decided 9.6% unemployment was somebody else's fault.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Harpooning the whale

The White House deficit commission has given America a preview of the shock therapy required to wean the country off its debt addiction: "Deficit Panel Pushes Cuts."

Of course, there's little chance that the recommendations would even get out of the panel because individual actions require agreement from 14 out of the panel's 18 members. Then they have to get through the Senate and the House, where newly emboldened Republicans will oppose any tax hikes and skittish Democrats will oppose many spending cuts.

My opinion? I'm the anti-Krugman: instead of endlessly griping that the stimulus wasn't large enough, I'm on the side that we should go full-bore on debt reduction. The future of America is already on display in England, France, Japan and Greece where sky-high debt is suppressing growth and leading to austerity measures. Better to take our medicine now than to fall into the debt trap later, where escape that will be all the more difficult once the entitlement bomb hits.

More - Lots and lots of reax at Memeorandum.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Limiting the Commerce Clause - George Mason law professor Ilya Somin believes the Supreme Court could knock down Obamacare's individual mandate: "Mandate challenge could prevail."

In related news, it does not appear that Justice Elena Kagan will recuse herself from any health care reform legal challenges even though she was Solicitor General for the Obama Administration and certainly had a legal role in the legislation.

Extra - From Wizbang: if the Commerce Clause can compel Americans to do something for the "good of society" does that mean we can force people to give up smokes? Hey, why not!?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Why I don't want to fly anymore

Let me start out by saying that growing up I had very few chances to fly on an airplane; just two trips to Orlando, if memory serves. It was only after I started working that I had the opportunity to fly on a semi-regular basis.

And I loved it. My first business trip was to St. Louis and since then I've been all around the world either visiting customers or attending professional conferences. But on my last trip to Copenhagen, I was pulled out of line for a random pat-down and then the woman at the ticket counter wouldn't give me a boarding pass without my baggage ticket for the connecting flight (which I eventually found.)

Now I've heard that that airports are using full-body scanners and - if you don't want your body exposed to dangerous levels of radiation - you can opt for the will-you-buy-me-a-drink-first pat down. This is the latest act of security theater, designed to make travelers believe they're somehow safer by moving through security gates in their socks.

I'm just not sure I want to do it anymore. On the one hand, I like to travel and visit places I would never be able to see on my own dime. On the other hand, air travel is a dehumanizing event - a cattle call from check-in, through boarding and disembarking, and the multiple stages of identification confirmation.

(Well, this post has probably landed me on a TSA list of some kind.)
Talk of the clown

If you were filled with trepidation that the New Yorker would fail to produce an analysis of the midterms sniffing with Central Park West superciliousness, then fear no more dear reader:
Another part of the problem, it must be said, is public ignorance. An illuminating Bloomberg poll, taken the week before the election, found that some two-thirds of likely voters believed that, under Obama and the Democrats, middle-class taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks under the Troubled Asset Relief Program are gone, never to be recovered. One might add to that list the public’s apparent conviction that illegal immigration is skyrocketing and that the health-care law will drive the deficit higher. Reality tells a different story. For ninety-five per cent of us, taxes are actually lower, cut by around four hundred dollars a year for individuals and twice that for families.
One may take note that $400 is quite a bit of money for those red staters in flyover country. Sure it's just a typical restaurant bill for the New Yorker staff at the Knickerbocker Bar & Grill (with drinks) but those people can purchase a used Ford pickup with that.
The economy has been growing, however feebly, for five straight quarters. Most of the TARP loans have been repaid and the rest soon will be, plus a modest profit for the Treasury. And the number of illegal immigrants fell by close to a million last year, thanks in part to more energetic border enforcement. The health-care law, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says, will bring the deficit down.
Really? We're really going to go down the path of debunking these "savings" from the health care bill, despite all evidence to the contrary? Also: no mention of the trillion-dollar "stimulus" bill that revved unemployment up to 9.6%? The New Yorker laughably parrots the Administration's line from a world that drops off at the Hudson River.

Fixing Social Security - American Thinker has a good review by Randall Hoven on the many options available to bring America's favorite entitlement back into solvency. Plan A, by the way, is the status quo where everybody gets a 25% benefit cut starting in 2039 or so. Plan B, well, as Hoven writes: "the CBO did all the heavy lifting" and the most effective fix is to index benefits to inflation which would require no additional taxes.
Maybe he should write a column about it - Does anybody know if Paul Krugman thinks the stimulus bill should have been larger? Anybody? His position is ambiguous.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Amazing Race update – Clowning around

We're still in Russia and teams start out in St. Petersburg where they must find a circus on the city outskirts. This is the Detour: Circus Band or Circus Clown. Teams may either learn to play an accordion or spin ten plates on a stick. Everybody appears to try to spin plates except Team Surgeons and Team Kentucky. A lot of the plate-spinning teams can get up to eight or nine plates, but can't get to ten. Brook & Claire of Team QVC finish first and head to the next clue at Bank Bridge. Nat & Kat learn their accordion song and head off next. Jill & Thomas, last week's #1 team, give up on plates, then give up on the accordion to go back to the plates.

At the bridge, teams find a clue indicating they must walk to a tower where a small figurine indicates they need to go to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood. They are instructed to walk but not use a taxi; therefore, one team (Michael & Kevin) follow a cab which sets them up for a penalty at the Pit Stop. At the church, the next clue directs teams to the Peter and Paul Fortress where Peter the Great is buried. Nick & Vicki can't find a cab. Brook & Claire discover that they were supposed to walk from the tower to the church so they turn their taxi driver around so they can complete the leg properly. At this point, I can't figure out who's in the lead, although Chad & Stephanie are still at the tower trying to find the next destination.

Nat & Kat arrive first at Roadblock where one team member must play a bowling-type game; you whip a stick at a bunch of logs and knock them off a framed area. They finish this very quickly and head off to the Pit Stop in first place. Meanwhile, Michael of Team YouTube can't seem to get past this Roadblock. Nick & Vicki arrive third which makes me wonder: weren't they supposed to do a Speed Bump for coming in last the previous leg?

A couple teams complete the Roadblock then go back to their taxis to retrieve bags. But they must pay the taxi drivers who, it seems, are demanding rather large amounts for a fare. One asks for 10,000 rubles which is like $325 to go across town; they end up paying $60 in American dollars. Chad & Stephanie try to check in without their bags but Phil sends them back to pay their driver. In the interim, Michael & Kevin try to check in at the Pit Stop but they broke two rules and incurred an hour time penalty. Chad & Stephanie broke only one rule, so they get a half-hour penalty, and they're automatically checked in as team #6. Team YouTube might have pulled it out if they had read their clues, but instead they're eliminated.

Final standings:

#1 – Team Surgeons – Nat & Kat
#2 – Team QVC – Brook & Claire
#3 – Team Vegas – Nick & Vicki
#4 – Team Kentucky – Gary & Mallory
#5 – Team Faceless Young Couple – Jill & Thomas
#6 – Team Bickering Young Couple – Chad & Stephanie
#7 – Team YouTube – Michael & Kevin – PHILIMINATED

Next week: A team sleeps late.