Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Battle of Gaza and The Real War

The Battle of Gaza cannot be understood as a thing in itself, but only as part of a broader whole:  the war against the terror masters.  And Iran is the most lethal, the most dangerous, and the most aggressive terror master in the world today.

Step back from the Gaza battle for just a second, and look at the war itself:  it extends from Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, to Somalia, to Gaza/the Palestinian Authority/Israel, to Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, with occasional skirmishes in the vast Kurdish domain (which embraces areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran), across Europe, into the United States and Canada and down to South America, including Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, with attendant terror/narcotics mafias that in turn operate in West Africa.  Iran is present in all these theaters, primarily via its proxies Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards (Quds Force).

Like the global totalitarian movements and regimes that threatened Western civilization in the last century, the Iranians come with a messianic ideology that admits no compromise with its enemies.  This war will only end with a winner and a loser, not with two contented negotiators.  We can win this war–we've delivered a stunning defeat to Iran and her proxies in Iraq, for example–and our most powerful weapons are political, not military.  Had we taken the war to Tehran, the terror forces in Gaza would, at a minimum, be a lot weaker today, as they would be in Afghanistan and Lebanon.  But we continue to dither, and the new American leaders are fooling themselves when they say that vigorous diplomacy can induce the mullahs to retreat.  It won't happen, any more than the Israelis got the terrorists to retreat from all-out war against the Jews when the Oslo Agreement was signed, or when Rabin shook hands with Arafat.  It only delayed the days of reckoning, at the cost of many lives, mostly of innocents, on both sides.

Minnesota Recount Folly

Democrats successfully stole the 2004 Governor's race in Washington state.  The Minnesota recount is following a similar pattern.  Democrats are fighting to make sure every vote counts, and then some.

In Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election, at least 1,392 felons illegally voted, 252 provisional ballots were wrongly counted, and 19 votes were cast from beyond the grave, according to Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges's opinion in a case brought by Dino Rossi, Ms. Gregoire's Republican opponent.

Blagojevich snubs Senate, taps Burris for seat - Chicago Breaking News

In a display of political bravado, disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich today appointed former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, challenging national Democratic leaders to reject the appointment of an African-American to the seat that propelled Barack Obama to the White House.

The defiant move tests the resolve of Senate Democrats who said they would not admit anyone appointed by Blagojevich, who is facing impeachment after being accused of trying to sell the Senate seat for personal gain. And it reveals to a nation celebrating Obama's victory the underbelly of Chicago's race-based political scene.

President-elect Obama supported the announcement by Senate Democrats that Blagojevich's appointment "will ultimately not stand."

I'm not so sure about that.  It seems to me that the Senate Democrats won't want to kick the black man out of the Senate because of the alleged crimes of the Governor.  Remember how defiant the Democratic Party leadership was about Michigan and Florida voting too early in the primary season.  Well, all their delegates were seated in the end.

Also, this gives Blago a good argument for his legal innocence.  Actions speak louder than words.  Maybe he talked about what he might get for the Senate seat, but in the end he appointed a worthy black man (and former political opponent).  No harm, no foul.  I think he'll get off without a trial and without an impeachment, probably after agreeing to resign and getting a guaranteed retirement pension from the state.  The Democrats don't want any more distractions so they'll let him go peacefully.  It's harder to figure out Fitzgerald.  After his successful (but seemingly petty) prosecution of Scooter Libby, I'm guessing, he won't want to give up.  I'd love to see Obama fire him (just for the political drama), but I don't think Obama has the brass to do that.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Another Great Depression? by Thomas Sowell

Before the Great Depression, it was not considered to be the business of the federal government to try to get the economy out of a depression. But the Smoot-Hawley tariff — designed to save American jobs by restricting imports — was one of Hoover's interventions, followed by even bigger interventions by FDR.

The rise in unemployment after the stock market crash of 1929 was a blip on the screen compared to the soaring unemployment rates reached later, after a series of government interventions.

For nearly three consecutive years, beginning in February 1932, the unemployment rate never fell below 20 percent for any month before January 1935, when it fell to 19.3 percent, according to the Vedder and Gallaway statistics.       

In other words, the evidence suggests that it was not the "problem" of the financial crisis in 1929 that caused massive unemployment but politicians' attempted "solutions."
There is yet another factor that provides a parallel to what happened during the Great Depression. No matter how much worse things got after government intervention under Roosevelt's New Deal policies, the party line was that he had to "do something" to get us out of the disaster created by the failure of the unregulated market and Hoover's "do nothing" policies.

What If New York Goes Bust?

The dirty secret of Empire State budgeting is that New York City depends disproportionately on Wall Street for its budget and New York State depends on New York City.
In the last four months, the financial landscape has changed dramatically. Investment banks that have been the engine of the city's tax revenue for decades have disappeared entirely or morphed into restricted new entities. According to E.J. McMahon, my colleague at the Manhattan Institute, between 1980 and 2007 the securities industry's share of wages in the state rocketed from 3 percent to 18 percent, with the average Wall Street salary and bonus rising to $379,000. Wall Street revenues made up 20 percent of the state's budget. So the 40,000 local jobs lost in the financial sector are only the beginning. We're not facing a cyclical downturn; we're facing a fundamental alteration of the facts of financial life in New York. And the 20 percent unemployment in some upstate counties will not help ease the squeeze.
But New York is playing Ford to California's GM at this stage of the crisis. While the Golden State economy is comparatively diversified, its financial meltdown is further along, with entire cities and towns throwing in the towel and declaring bankruptcy.
The city of Vallejo—population 120,000—declared bankruptcy earlier this year because it was locked into spending 74 percent of its $80 million general fund budget on public-safety salaries. Police captains were entitled to receive $306,000 annually in pay and benefits, while 21 firefighters earned more than $200,000 a year, including overtime. After five years on the job, all were entitled to lifetime health benefits. Now two smaller towns north of San Francisco, Isleton and Rio Vista, also appear on the brink of bankruptcy.
In a preview of political fights to come, both New York State and California budgets are being crippled by outsized public sector union pension obligations that are now coming due in a perfect storm—a combination of an aging population, a declining tax base, and a fiscal crisis.
The Democrats who narrowly control both state legislatures have a notoriously cozy relationship with unions and they will be unlikely in the extreme to bite the hands that feed. But the unsupportable absurdities of the current arrangement are becoming evident.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Obama team probe of Obama team finds no Obama team impropriety

None of these Obama-Blagojevich contacts is a shock. It would be surprising if an exiting senator's office was not in touch with a nominating governor's office of the same party on his/her successor, although Obama promised immediately after Nov. 4 he would not be involved.

But given the *&#$%# excerpts read aloud two weeks ago by Chicago U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald apparently showing the governor demanding money for state business, aid and the "golden" revenue opportunity of peddling a Senate nomination, the media world was curious to know what did Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a longtime political pal of Blagojevich, say on those wiretaps.

This report must come as a relief to the President-Elect and the Transition Team, who apparently weren't sure if they had maybe been a part of the Blago scandal.  This is one of those "no credible evidence" situations, meaning that they can't pin the rap on our team and the prosecutor isn't after us.  Keep to our story, and everything will be fine.  If anybody asks and questions, just say that's all been investigated already.  Let's move on.

O'Sullivan: Conservative Snobs Wrong on Palin

I know Margaret Thatcher. Margaret Thatcher is a friend of mine. And as a matter of fact, Margaret Thatcher and Sarah Palin have a great deal in common.

Read the whole thing.  There are some great lines about Thatcher and her opponents.

Washington Is Killing Silicon Valley -

From the beginning of this decade, the process of new company creation has been under assault by legislators and regulators. They treat it as if it is a natural phenomenon that can be manipulated and exploited, rather than the fragile creation of several generations of hard work, risk-taking and inventiveness. In the name of "fairness," preventing future Enrons, and increased oversight, Congress, the SEC and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) have piled burdens onto the economy that put entrepreneurship at risk.

The new laws and regulations have neither prevented frauds nor instituted fairness. But they have managed to kill the creation of new public companies in the U.S., cripple the venture capital business, and damage entrepreneurship. According to the National Venture Capital Association, in all of 2008 there have been just six companies that have gone public. Compare that with 269 IPOs in 1999, 272 in 1996, and 365 in 1986.

Faced with crushing reporting costs if they go public, new companies are instead selling themselves to big, existing corporations. For the last four years it has seemed that every new business plan in Silicon Valley has ended with the statement "And then we sell to Google." The venture capital industry is now underwater, paying out less than it is taking in. Small potential shareholders are denied access to future gains. Power is being ever more centralized in big, established companies.

For all of this, we can first thank Sarbanes-Oxley. Cooked up in the wake of accounting scandals earlier this decade, it has essentially killed the creation of new public companies in America, hamstrung the NYSE and Nasdaq (while making the London Stock Exchange rich), and cost U.S. industry more than $200 billion by some estimates.

Meanwhile, FASB has fiddled with the accounting rules so much that, as one of America's most dynamic business executives, T.J. Rodgers of Cypress Semiconductor, recently blogged: "My financial statements are a mystery, even to me." FASB's "mark-to-market" accounting rules helped drive AIG and Bear Stearns into bankruptcy, even though they were cash-positive.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Speed Camera Prank

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can You Still See the USA in Your Chevrolet? by Mark Steyn

For purposes of comparison, Toyota's market cap is one hundred billion and change (the change being bigger than the whole of GM). General Motors, like the other two geezers of the Old Three, is a vast retirement home with a small loss-making auto subsidiary. The UAW is the AARP in an Edsel: It has three times as many retirees and widows as "workers" (I use the term loosely). GM has 96,000 employees but provides health benefits to a million people.

How do you make that math add up? Not by selling cars: Honda and Nissan make a pre-tax operating profit per vehicle of around 1600 bucks; Ford, Chrysler and GM make a loss of between $500 and $1,500. That's to say, they lose money on every vehicle they sell.

Gerson, W., & Me - John O'Sullivan

What Burke said of individuals is also true of governments: "Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without." If governments lack the internal restraint of a libertarian philosophy, they will indulge their appetites — including the appetite for moral self-congratulation — without limit until some external restraint such as the value of the currency or the level of interest rates finally obstructs them. 

That gloomy truth is in no way affected by directing government help through mediating institutions. Gerson argues somewhat confusingly that his stress on such institutions is an innovation within conservatism and yet something that transforms his federal compassion into a distinctly conservative thing. I won't go into all the obscurities here — Jonah? — but neither half of his seesaw argument works. As Burke's phrase "little platoons" tells us, conservatism has long stressed the vital necessity of mediating institutions in social policy broadly defined. Yet their value will be reduced and even destroyed if they become absorbed into the state machinery of largesse with all its regulations — especially if, as may now happen, that machinery starts to run out of cash.

Well, that's enough compassion. In view of all the above points, however, I think we need a word other than compassion for what Gerson is advocating. May I suggest the neologism: "Compassioneering."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Union Rules - Jonah Goldberg

A dedicated teamster union worker was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madam, "Is this a union house?" "No," she replied, "I'm  sorry it isn't." "Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?" "The house gets $80 and the girls get $20," she answered. Offended at such unfair dealings, the union man stomped off down the street in search of a more equitable,  hopefully unionized shop. His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madam responded, "Why yes sir, this is a union house. We observe all union rules." The man asked, "And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?" "The girls get $80 and the house gets $20." "That's more like it!" the union man said.  He handed the Madam $100, looked around the room, and pointed to a stunningly attractive blonde. "I'd like her," he said. "I'm sure you would, sir," said the Madam. Then she gestured to a 92-yearold woman in the corner, "but Ethel here has 67 years seniority and according to union rules, she's next."

Rights vs. Entitlements and the New Deal

In his 1944 message to Congress, Roosevelt said that "our rights to life and liberty"—the negative liberty to which Obama referred, had "proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness." He claimed that "In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights." This bill of rights included the right to a job, the right to food and recreation, the right to adequate farm prices, the right to a decent home, the right to medical care, and the right to a good education.

Of course, these are not "rights" at all—not in the sense that the framers and ratifiers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution used the term--but entitlements. From the founding until the twentieth century, the American regime assumed that government's purpose was to secure pre-existing natural rights—such life, liberty, property, or association. Everyone can exercise such rights simultaneously; nobody's exercise of his own rights limits anyone else's similar exercise. Your right to life or to work or to vote does not take anything away from anyone else. We can all pursue happiness at once. Entitlements, on the other hand, require someone else to provide me with the substantive good that the exercise of rights pursues. The right to work, for example, is fundamentally different from the right (entitlement) to a job; the right to marry does not entitle me to a spouse; the right to free speech does not entitle me to an audience.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who Is at Fault for the Decline of the Big Three? - Michael Barone

Flash forward to 1970, when the UAW was negotiating its contract with General Motors, a story told by William Serrin in The Company and the Union. Taylorism was still the reigning philosophy of management, and workers really hated their jobs. I remember hearing a UAW political operative tell me, with horror in his voice, that a colleague who deviated from UAW discipline "was sent back to the line." So the big UAW demand that year was "30 and out"—assembly line workers could retire after 30 years on the job. This in turn led the union to demand generous retiree benefits. A worker who retired at 51 wouldn't be eligible for Medicare for 14 years, and therefore the UAW negotiated incredibly generous medical benefits—elective dental work with no copayment is one that sticks in my mind.

The UAW also created a constituency within itself of retirees who have voting rights in union elections just as actual workers do, and there are now something like three times as many GM retirees as GM employees as voting members of the UAW. Retiree benefits account for the lion's share of the difference between GM's labor costs and the labor costs of foreign automakers in the United States.

General Motors in 1970 thought it could afford this. Didn't it "control" half the U.S. auto market? Couldn't it generate any level of demand it wanted through advertising? That's what as learned a sage as John Kenneth Galbraith had argued in his bestselling The New Industrial State, published in 1967. GM in 1970 didn't fear competition; its greatest fear was that the Justice Department would bring an antitrust case to break it up.

But of course it turned out that GM and Ford and Chrysler were in 1970 just on the verge of getting serious competition from foreign automakers. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Associated Press: Obama left with little time to curb global warming

Mother Nature, of course, is oblivious to the federal government's machinations. Ironically, 2008 is on pace to be a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line. Experts say it's thanks to a La Nina weather variation. While skeptics are already using it as evidence of some kind of cooling trend, it actually illustrates how fast the world is warming.

If Obama doesn't hurry, he may not get to take credit for the natural cooling that's taking place.  Maybe just having a good man like Obama in charge is enough to heal the planet.  No need to waste billions of dollars to make politicians feel better about themselves.

Power Line has more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bjorn Lomborg Says Cool It!: Getting our priorities right on climate change and the world's top problems

At Reason's 40th anniversary event, held in Hollywood on November 14 and 15, "Skeptical Environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg kicked things off with an engrossing 30-minute presentation about man-made climate change and the best ways to prioritize and solve global problems ranging from water shortages to poverty to malaria.

video presentation at the link

The Blagojevich Case: Why Did Fitzgerald Act Now? by Byron York on National Review Online

The dealing seemed very close to a climax — and an explosive political scandal. And then, on the morning of December 5, the Chicago Tribune ran a story on its front page reporting that law enforcement had secretly recorded Blagojevich's conversations as part of a criminal investigation. Blagojevich immediately instructed Fundraiser A to "undo" the plan to meet personally with the associate of Candidate Five. Blagojevich instead turned his energy to preparing his legal defense. 

The deal was off, blown, apparently, by the Tribune's report. For anyone who has watched the case, the astonishing thing is that Blagojevich, prior to December 5, could possibly have assumed that he wasn't under surveillance. But he apparently did, making for some of the juiciest political wiretaps in years. And he appeared to be moving toward actually making a corrupt deal to sell Obama's Senate seat when he finally, belatedly, figured things out. And that seems to be the best explanation for why prosecutor Fitzgerald went public on December 9, instead of letting the case continue for a while longer.

Other press reports have suggested that Candidate Five is Jesse Jackson Jr.

Camille Paglia on Obama choosing Hillary as Secretary of State

As for Obama's appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, what sense does that make except within parochial Democratic politics? Awarding such a prize plum to Hillary may be a sop to her aggrieved fan base, but what exactly are her credentials for that position? Aside from being a mediocre senator (who, contrary to press reports, did very little for upstate New York), Hillary has a poor track record as both a negotiator and a manager. And of course both Clintons constantly view the world through the milky lens of their own self-interest. Well, it's time for Hillary to put up or shut up. If she gets as little traction in world affairs as Condoleezza Rice has, Hillary will be flushed down the rabbit hole with her feckless husband and effectively neutralized as a future presidential contender. If that's Obama's clever plan, is it worth the gamble? The secretary of state should be a more reserved, unflappable character -- not a drama queen who, even in her acceptance speech, morphed into three different personalities in the space of five minutes.

Given Obama's elaborate deference to the Clintons, beginning with his over-accommodation of them at the Democratic convention in August, a nagging question has floated around the Web: What do the Clintons have on him? No one doubts that the Clinton opposition research team was turning over every rock in its mission to propel Hillary into the White House. There's an information vacuum here that conspiracy theorists have been rushing to fill.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Illinois Governor Arrested on Corruption Charges

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris were arrested Tuesday morning in Chicago on two counts each of federal corruption charges stemming from allegations Blagojevich was trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder.

The arrest is part of a three-year probe of "pay-to-play politics" in the governor's administration. The criminal complaint by the FBI says each man was arrested on two charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. 

The charges also relate to allegations that Blagojevich and Harris schemed with previously convicted defendants and Obama associates Antonin Rezko, Stuart Levine, Ali Ata and others to arrange financial benefits in exchange for appointments to state boards and commissions, state employment, state contracts and access to state funds. 

In addition, the case alleges that Blagojevich tried to influence the composition of The Chicago Tribune editorial board in exchange for state aid to the Tribune Company, which owns the newspaper.

The Obama transition team may be the first one in history ever to need a pardon planning team.

Cat Fight at Foggy Bottom

It sounds like Susan Rice wants to be prepared to take over as Secretary of State -- just in case something happens to Hillary.  I'm looking forward to leaks about the Emoluments Clause from unnamed sources in the transition team.

As Secretary of State-pick Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. envoy-choice Susan Rice separately visited the diplomatic agency's headquarters in Washington's Foggy Bottom neighborhood, persons familiar with the transition said that Rice wants to install her own transition team inside the department.

Rebuilding Online GOP

It seems like only yesterday that Al Gore invented the Internet. But technology is rapidly changing how political campaigns are conducted and it is time for Republicans to be in front of these revolutionary changes – not lagging behind.

UAW Workers Actually Cost the Big Three Automakers $70 an Hour

The United Auto Workers (UAW) wants Congress to bail out General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler to prevent their undergoing restructuring in bankruptcy proceedings. In bankruptcy, a judge could order union contracts to be renegotiated to reflect competitive realities. Many analysts have objected that hourly autoworkers at the Big Three are some of the most highly paid workers in America, costing the Big Three over $70 an hour in wages and current and future benefits. All taxpayers should not be taxed to preserve the affluence of a few.

Some observers argue that UAW members do not actually earn this much.[1] They argue this figure includes the cost of benefits paid to current retirees as well as wages and benefits paid to current workers and that the actual hourly earnings of current UAW members are much lower. This is a mistaken interpretation of the financial data released by the Detroit automakers.

Monday, December 08, 2008

John Derbyshire on Obama's plans

Has this stuff really been thought through? Is thinking-through a thing the new administration intends to do? Or are we just to be serenaded with familiar old tunes from the "progressive" songbook for the next four years?

The leading indicator here will be Head Start, the grandaddy of all no-demonstrated-benefit feelgood "progressive" boondoggles. If we start hearing about Head Start, we'll know that this new team doesn't have an idea among them that's less than thirty years old.

I believe Hillary's cardboard cutout
At the exact moment Jon Favreau is receiving high praise in pre-inaugural media puff pieces, the 27-year-old chief speechwriter for President-elect Barack Obama (not Jon Favreau, the Hollywood actor/ director) finds himself in a minor mess over a photo from a recent private party showing him groping the breast of a cardboard cutout of Hillary Rodham Clinton as an unnamed pal wearing an "Obama staff" T-shirt kisses and feeds her beer.
The aggressive iconography of two young drunk men taking advantage of a life-size cutout of a woman - especially a powerful one - would bring an elite college campus to a standstill, force a housecleaning of a Fortune 500 company, ground the Air Force Academy and would, in most cases, ruin the career of a Republican staffer or elected official.

Instapundit has the photo.  Hillary is apparently laughing off the controversy, saying she hoped that Bill would limit himself to cardboard cutouts from now on.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

India Is a Key Ally in the War on Terror

At a Pentagon meeting in 2002, a Muslim official from an Asian country observed that there were nearly as many Muslim citizens of India as of Pakistan, yet it was virtually unheard of that an Indian Muslim would join al Qaeda, while many Pakistanis had done so. Why? Because India is free and democratic, he asserted.

His point was not that democracy is a cure-all, but that the problem of terrorism cannot be solved by military or law-enforcement means alone. In other words, it is also crucial to confront the challenge at the level of ideas: to counter extremist teachings, and to promote democratic reforms with the aim of undermining the appeal of extremist Islamism.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Chris Wallace at Frost/Nixon - Mark Hemingway

So someone from the audience asked Reston, who worked on the interviews, about whether it was right to pay Nixon for the interviews. Reston gave a very self-serving answer. "More important than that is the abuse of power. The relationship of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal to the abuses of power today ... The younger generation feels that Richard Nixon was railroaded out of office and what he did was really trivial compared to what George W. Bush did. So it's important to go back to the source, to go back to the cauldron both for checkbook journalism and abuse of power." In other words, Reston basically admitted what they were doing was unethical journalism but then said the end justifies the means because they were out to get Nixon who was the real criminal.

At which point, Chris Wallace seized the microphone in the audience, apparently fed up with the Nixon and Bush comparisons: "I respectfully would like to disagree with that and I think it trivializes Nixon's crimes and completely misrepresents what George W. Bush did. Whatever George W. Bush did was after the savage attacks of 9/11 in which 3,000 Americans were killed and was done in service of trying to protect this country. I'm not saying you have to agree with everything he did, but it was all done in service of trying to protect this country and keep us safe and, the fact is, that we sit here tonight so comfortably and the country has not been attacked again since 9/11. Richard Nixon's crimes were committed purely in the interest of his own political gain, and I think to compare what Nixon did for pure political self-preservation to George W. Bush, even if you disagree with rendition or waterboarding, is a gross misunderstanding of history then and now." Somewhat surprisingly, given the political make up of the crowd, Wallace got a smattering of applause.

Steyn on Canadian liberal coalition: a misbegotten pantomime horse

the soft left (Liberals), hard left (NDP) and secessionist left (the Bloc Quebecois) have entered into a backroom agreement signed in blood (and with many billions of dollars and Senate seats changing hands) and are leaning on the Governor-General to fire the Conservative Prime Minister and replace the present government with a "coalition" - a misbegotten pantomime horse comprised of three rear ends. The Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is contemplating ways to avoid defenestration and will be addressing the nation (I use the term loosely) this evening.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

John Stossel : Government Sets Us Up for the Next Bust

"But doesn't the government have to act?" people ask. "We can't just let financial companies fail!"

I say, Why not?

Jim Rogers, the successful investor and author, puts it well: "Why are we bailing out Citibank? Why are 300 million Americans having to pay for Citibank's mistakes? The way the system is supposed to work [is this]: People fail. And then the competent people take over the assets from the failed people, and then you start again with a new stronger base. What we're doing this time is ... taking the assets from the competent people, giving them to the incompetent people, and saying, "OK, now you can compete with the competent people." So everybody's weakened: The whole nation is weakened, the whole economy is weakened. That's not the way it's supposed to work."

Chambliss: Palin 'allowed us to peak'

Fresh off his runoff victory Tuesday night, Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss credited Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with firing up his base. 

"I can't overstate the impact she had down here," Chambliss said during an interview Wednesday morning on Fox News. 

"When she walks in a room, folks just explode," he added. "And they really did pack the house everywhere we went. She's a dynamic lady, a great administrator, and I think she's got a great future in the Republican Party." 

Goldberg: Left behind

Well, who will Obama rely on when hit with the next surprise? The people he has around him, that's who. And, so far, those people ain't left-wingers.

Don't get me wrong. Given the alternatives, I'm delighted with most of Obama's picks. But there's a reason why the old Reaganite phrase "personnel is policy" has become a Washington cliché: Because it's true.

Obama will surely learn that if he tries to implement a left-wing agenda with a centrist team at his disposal.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Roger’s Rules » How Democracies Perish, British Edition

the sudden arrest in London last week of of Damian Green, a conservative MP and Shadow Minister for Immigration, who was seized by anti-terrorist personnel from the Metropolitan police, held for questioning for 9 hours, and whose private papers and computer files in his home and office in the House of Commons were confiscated. The Honorable Member's offense? Embarrassing Gordon Brown's government. How did he do this? By revealing in debate on the floor of the House of Commons and in various lapses, failures, and dirty-little-secrets about the government's immigration policy

Monday, December 01, 2008

Bad CAIR Day

The allegations about CAIR's conduct in the Days' affair and the guilty verdict rendered against its co-conspirators in the Holy Land case point up a central reality: In the words of a wise lawyer, shady organizations, even stealth ones, invariably engage in culpable conduct no matter how sophisticated they are because there are too many loose ends and you cannot control all of them. It appears that that is what happened with respect to the Muslim Brotherhood's stealth jihad operatives at CAIR. 

Armed with the verdict of the Holy Land Foundation trial, it is high time for federal prosecutors to turn their sights on CAIR beyond simply naming them as an unindicted co-conspirator. By opening up their own investigation based on the evidence already proven in the HLF trial and the troubling allegations in the civil lawsuit, the government may soon turn a bad CAIR day into curtains for this Muslim Brotherhood engine for stealth jihad.

Sarah Palin in Augusta

Augusta — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin roared back onto the campaign trail Monday, calling on Georgians to re-elect incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in his hotly contested runoff with Democrat Jim Martin. "The eyes of the nation are on you," Palin told several thousand people at the James Brown Arena for her 8:55 a.m. speech, the first of four appearances in the state. "We all have Georgia on our mind."

Martin started the last day of campaigning greeting commuters at a downtown Atlanta MARTA station, then planned to travel to Augusta and Macon before returning to Atlanta for an appearance at the Capitol with civil rights veterans and hip-hop star Ludacris. Martin spokesman Matt Canter also said the Democrat will have "Georgia's own Miss Alaska" on hand to sing the national anthem at a 5:30 p.m. rally at the Capitol. Atlanta-based recording artist Maryline Blackburn won the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant — the one where Palin finished as a runner-up.

I might be wrong, but I think Governor Palin might be even more influential than Ludacris.  But I love the mix of condescension and one-upmanship demonstrated by the Democrats' showcasing the Miss Alaska from 1984 -- as if being runner up in a beauty pageant was the Governor's greatest achievement in life.

Palin campaigns for Saxby in Augusta

Augusta — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin roared back onto the campaign trail Monday, calling on Georgians to re-elect incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss in his hotly contested runoff with Democrat Jim Martin. "The eyes of the nation are on you," Palin told several thousand people at the James Brown Arena for her 8:55 a.m. speech, the first of four appearances in the state. "We all have Georgia on our mind."

Martin started the last day of campaigning greeting commuters at a downtown Atlanta MARTA station, then planned to travel to Augusta and Macon before returning to Atlanta for an appearance at the Capitol with civil rights veterans and hip-hop star Ludacris. Martin spokesman Matt Canter also said the Democrat will have "Georgia's own Miss Alaska" on hand to sing the national anthem at a 5:30 p.m. rally at the Capitol. Atlanta-based recording artist Maryline Blackburn won the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant — the one where Palin finished as a runner-up.

I might be wrong, but I think Governor Palin might be even more influential than Ludacris.  But I love the mix of condescension and one-upmanship demonstrated by the Democrats' showcasing the Miss Alaska from 1984 -- as if being runner up in a beauty pageant was the Governor's greatest achievement in life.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama's small donor base image is a myth, new study reveals

Everybody knows how President-elect Barack Obama's amazing campaign money machine was dominated by several million regular folks sending in hard-earned amounts under $200, a real sign of his broadbased grassroots support.

Except, it turns out, that's not really true.

In fact, Obama's base of small donors was almost exactly the same percent as George W. Bush's in 2004 -- Obama had 26% and the great Republican satan 25%.

It turns out that many donors gave multiple small amounts that added up to the legal maximum.  Plus, we should remember that the Obama campaign disabled the normal checks on credit card donations, which makes it easier to evade campaign finance limits.

Friday, November 28, 2008

What the Obama Kids Will Miss Out On at Private School

It was reported last week that the Obamas have chosen the elite, $30,000 per year Sidwell Friends School for their daughters. [...] Public school officials, however, should be perplexed as to why the Obamas, like nearly all politicians, have discarded Washington D.C.'s public schools for the "private sector."

An important question then becomes why the Obamas chose Sidwell Friends, a school bereft of so many elements public educators and the media tell us are required for academic "growth and excellence." Since it would be a shame for Sasha and Malia to miss out on all the "benefits" of public schooling, here are some recommendations I have for Sidwell Friends, which will help mold it into the type of school "the experts" desire.

That National Education Association believes "the attainment and exercise of collective bargaining rights are essential to the promotion of education employee and student needs in society." How can the Obama kids have the complete educational experience without early release time for "professional development," empty parking lots at 2:40pm for salary protests, strikes, and pilfered paychecks?

Charles Krauthammer - From Market Economy to Political Economy

In the old days -- from the Venetian Republic to, oh, the Bear Stearns rescue -- if you wanted to get rich, you did it the Warren Buffett way: You learned to read balance sheets. Today you learn to read political tea leaves. [...] Today's extreme stock market volatility is not just a symptom of fear -- fear cannot account for days of wild market swings upward -- but a reaction to meta-economic events: political decisions that have vast economic effects. As economist Irwin Stelzer argues, we have gone from a market-driven economy to a politically driven economy.

Robert Mundell’s New Wisdom by Larry Kudlow on NRO Financial

Putting it all together, Mundell's anti-recession program is a reduction of the high marginal tax rate on business to reignite growth along with a stable dollar to contain inflation.

Question to Ponder [Andy McCarthy]

Would Barack Obama have gotten the Democratic nomination if he had told the party he would retain George Bush's Defense Secretary?

Karl Rove: Thanksgiving Cheer From Obama

Karl Rove approves of Obama's economic team.  How will that sit with the Democrats in the Senate?  Geithner might have a hard time getting confirmed.  (Just kidding, but it's kind of fun to imagine how this endorsement will drive a few lefties crazy.)

Mr. Obama's announcement of his economic team on Monday provided surprisingly positive clarity. He picked as Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the respected, soft-spoken New York Fed president. Mr. Geithner has been a key player with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke in confronting the financial crisis. Every major decision in the rescue effort came only after the three agreed.

The National Economic Council director-designee, Larry Summers, is another solid pick. Mr. Summers has been an advocate for trade liberalization, he was the Clinton administration's negotiator for the financial deregulation known as Gramm-Leach-Bliley, and he even attempted to rein in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the 1990s.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Charles Rangel Looks Like a Tax Cheat

First there is the Washington Post's revelation that Rangel inappropriately claimed a tax break on his D.C. townhouse by claiming it was his primary residence. The five-year charade only netted the congressman from Harlem about $1,500, which is relatively small potatoes. But it nicely dovetails with two other Rangel escapades of late: That he failed to pay taxes on $75,000 in rental income from his luxury beach villa in the Caribbean because he—ahem—didn't know it was income; and that he scored several rent-stabilized apartments in New York, each of which he must claim as his primary residence. Taken all together, it looks like the top tax-writer in Congress is a tax cheat.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Opposed to Holder without Apology by Andrew C. McCarth

Let's be blunt here: The Marc Rich pardon was one of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of the Justice Department. Not the modern history, the entire history. Rich was accused of mega-crimes: millions in fraud, tax-evasion, and trading with the America's enemies. In 2000, he was a fugitive. He had been one for nearly two decades, during which the government had expended immense resources in a futile attempt to apprehend him. 

Mind you, flitting from country to country to avoid prosecution, as Rich was doing, is itself a felony. When Eric Holder aided and abetted Rich's pardon effort, he was not only grossly violating the Justice Department policy it was his job to uphold; he was dealing with the agents of someone who was actively committing a serious federal crime. That's why, when prosecutors deal with a fugitive's representatives, the appropriate question is: "When is he going to turn himself in?" It's not, as Holder essentially asked, "What can I do to help?" 

Holder, then Clinton administration deputy attorney general, steered the fugitive toward a friendly Clinton insider: former White House Counsel Jack Quinn. That enabled the most-wanted fugitive to lobby the President directly — and in violation of an executive order barring lobbying by recently departed White House staffers — without nettlesome interference from the Justice Department's long-established, procedurally rigorous pardon process. In order to protect the public, that process called for input from the case prosecutors and investigators. As Holder well knew, following it would have demonstrated beyond cavil that pardoning Rich would be an outrage, in violation of every DOJ guideline. 

Moreover, Holder extended his helping hand with the crassest of motives: the careerist was hoping the influential Quinn would look favorably on Holder's quest to become attorney general in a Gore administration. That is, Holder was actively soliciting help from Quinn (Vice President Gore's former counsel and friend) at the very time he was providing invaluable help to Quinn's fugitive client — first in unsuccessfully pushing Rich's preposterous effort to settle the case without jail time with prosecutors in New York, then in overcoming the uniform objections of White House staffers to a Rich pardon. 

And the cherry on top: The scenario in which Holder's sell-out of Justice Department principle took place was scummy in every particular; multi-millionaire Rich's ex-wife and staunchest supporter, Denise Rich, was making mega-bucks donations to Clinton causes (according to Time, $400,000 to the Clinton Library Fund, $10,000 to the Clinton Legal Defense Fund, and over $1 million to Democrat campaigns during the Clinton era — including $70,000 for the 2000 Senate campaign of Hillary Clinton, now Obama's pick for secretary of State).

Thomas Sowell : "Jolting" the Economy

Much as we may deplore partisanship in Washington, bipartisan disasters are often twice as bad as partisan disasters-- and this is a bipartisan disaster in the making.

Too many people who argue that there is a beneficial role for the government to play in the economy glide swiftly from that to the conclusion that the government will in fact confine itself to playing such a role.

In the light of history, this is a faith which passeth all understanding. Even in the case of the Great Depression of the 1930s, increasing numbers of economists and historians who have looked back at that era have concluded that, on net balance, government intervention prolonged the Great Depression.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hillary and the Emoluments Clause

I very recently read an article by John O'Connor on the subject, The Emoluments Clause: An Anti-Federalist Intruder in a Federalist Constitution, 24 Hofstra L. Rev. 89 (1995), so I asked him what he thought. Here's his answer:

The Emoluments Clause provides that "[n]o Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time." As I understand it, 5 U.S.C. § 5303 provides for an automatic annual increase in certain federal salaries, including the salary of the Secretary of State, unless the President certifies that an increase in salaries is inappropriate. The salary of the Secretary of State has increased during Senator Clinton's current Senate term, which does not end until 2012. Therefore, under a straightforward application of the Emoluments Clause, Senator Clinton is ineligible for appointment as Secretary of State because the emoluments of that office "have been encreased" during Senator Clinton's current Senate term, and this disability continues until the end of "the time for which [she] was elected, or until January 2013.

I do not believe it affects the analysis that the salary increase occurred as a result of an Executive Order or that the statute creating these quasi-automatic salary increases was enacted prior to Senator Clinton's current term. By its plain language, the Emoluments Clause applies when the office's salary "shall have been encreased," without regard to exactly how it was increased. Indeed, an early proposed draft of the clause included language limiting it to an increase of emoluments "by the legislature of the U[nited] States," and was later revised to encompass any increase in emoluments. It is worth noting that several Framers thought, without much explication, that the clause was too lax as initially drafted. The clause also does not require that a Senator or Representative have voted for the increase.

There's a further discussion about the "Saxbe Fix" such that the salary is reduced to a lower level, which in theory would allow the Senator to be appointed without the emoluments having been "encreased during such time."  The Saxbe Fix has been used before, but never tested in court.  However, by my plain reading of the Constitution, the Saxbe Fix is unconstitutional.  (Professor O'Conner agrees.) Therefore, it follows that my opinion will be ignored and the Hillary will get a Saxbe fix with little controversy.  It's unclear who would have standing to challenge the Saxbe Fix, anyway.  It seems ironic that our first constitutional law professor President would so casually ignore the issue, but he's got a world to save and less than four years before his re-election.

Flake's New Appropriations Bid

Conservatives are once again lining up their support to put Flake on Appropriations. The anti-tax advocacy group FreedomWorks has renewed their 2008 "Make it Flake" campaign at "There are 59 members of the House Appropriations Committee," the site says. "We think it is time to have at least one Committee member who doesn't take earmarks and who doesn't support pork barrel spending."

The Club for Growth's Pat Toomey made the case for Flake in the pages of the National Review writing, "[House Minority Leader] John Boehner should use his influence and leadership position to appoint Rep. Jeff Flake to the Appropriations Committee."

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hillary plays hardball - Americas, World - The Independent

The advisers who helped trash the former First Lady's foreign policy credentials on the campaign trail are being brutally shunted aside, as the price of her accepting the job of being the public face of America to the world. In negotiations with Mr Obama this week before agreeing to take the job, she demanded and received assurances that she alone should appoint staff to the State Department. She also got assurances that she will have direct access to the President and will not have to go through his foreign policy advisers on the National Security Council, which is where many of her critics in the Obama team are expected to end up.


Mr Craig's crime was not so much that he enthusiastically backed Mr Obama for President and helped run his foreign policy advisory panel, it was his lacerating attacks on the putative Secretary of State's claims that she passed the "Commander-in-Chief test" as a foreign policy expert in the Clinton Administration. In a devastating memo of 11 March last, which he addressed "to interested parties," Mr Craig said: There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff."

"She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis."

The memo went on to say that Mrs Clinton "never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue – not at 3 AM or at any other time of day." Earlier this week Mr Craig was tapped to become White House counsel, a totally anonymous position, and shunted him out of the line of fire from the Secretary of State.

Sarah and the Vegan Weenies - Byron York - The Corner on National Review Online

"The Corner" at NRO has some reader responses to the great turkey massacre...

She should tell the media that she apologizes and she'll do her next interview inside an abortion clinic.

My fowl lady - Mark Steyn

And, while you're right that "it would have been funny whichever pol stood there", ask yourself whether the media would even have noticed had Joe Biden done such a thing. That's what upgraded it from mildly infelicitous to side-splitting hilarious - not the footage, but the po-faced huffing of the shrieking nancies at MSNBC and the portentous plonkers at The New York Times:

You don't have to be a huge animal lover to question why Governor Palin chose to be interviewed — while issuing a traditional seasonal pardon of a turkey — while turkeys were being executed in the background.

And that's Sarah Palin's real stroke of genius in these difficult times for the global economy. For, in an age when the government picks which banks to nationalize and which banks to fail, and guarantees mortgages that should never have been issued, and prepares to demand that those taxpayers with responsible and affordable pension plans prop up the lavish and unsustainable pension programs of Detroit, Governor Palin has given us a great teaching moment and a perfect snapshot of what my Brit reader would recognize as pre-Thatcher "industrial policy":

When the government decides it can "pick winners" and spare them from the realities of the market, everyone else gets bled to death.

Thank you, Sarah. It's the first election ad of Campaign '12. 

George Will : The Hyperbole of a Conservative

Just a few highlights from George Will.  Read the whole thing.

Either markets allocate resources, or government -- meaning politics -- allocates them. Now that distrust of markets is high, Americans are supposed to believe that the institution they trust least -- Congress -- will pony up $1 trillion and then passively recede, never putting its 10 thumbs, like a manic Jack Horner, into the pie? Surely Congress will direct the executive branch to show compassion for this, that and the other industry. And it will mandate "socially responsible" spending -- an infinitely elastic term -- by the favored companies.

Conservatives rightly think, or once did, that much, indeed most, government spreading of wealth is economically destructive and morally dubious -- destructive because, by directing capital to suboptimum uses, it slows wealth creation; morally dubious because the wealth being spread belongs to those who created it, not government.

In America, socialism is un-American. Instead, Americans merely do rent-seeking -- bending government for the benefit of private factions. The difference is in degree, including the degree of candor. The rehabilitation of conservatism cannot begin until conservatives are candid about their complicity in what government has become.

As for the president-elect, he promises to change Washington. He will, by making matters worse. He will intensify rent-seeking by finding new ways -- this will not be easy -- to expand, even more than the current administration has, government's influence on spreading the wealth around.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Clinton Is Said to Opt for Secretary of State Position

I'm surprised that Hillary would take the job, but I guess I underestimated the strength of the Democratic boys club in the Senate.  I'm shocked that they wouldn't accept her in any kind of leadership position after she nearly won the nomination.  I'm sure we'll have some fun with Bill Clinton as our roving ambassador for international relations with interns.

Driving Mrs. Clinton's deliberations in part, friends said, was a sense of disenchantment with the Senate, where despite her stature she remained low in the ranks of seniority that governs the body. She was particularly upset, they said, at the reception she felt she received when she returned from the campaign trail and sought a more significant leadership role in the expanding Democratic majority.

"Her experience in the Senate with some of her colleagues has not been the easiest time for her," said one longtime friend. "She's still a very junior senator. She doesn't have a committee. And she's had some disappointing times with her colleagues."

In particular, the friend said, Mrs. Clinton was upset when the Senate Democratic leadership rejected the possibility of her heading a special task force with a staff and a mandate to develop legislation expanding health care coverage. The idea of giving her an existing leadership post was also dismissed because the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, did not want to force out any senators currently holding those jobs.