I'd asked if people had heard any new labels for the sw*ne flu, and indeed, the American Meat Institute wants to call it the North American Flu. But in addition, naturally, I got lots of smarty-pants suggestions: Bush Flu (since it must be his fault), O-fluenza (after our Fearless Leader), Hope Flu (ditto), Montezuma's Revenge II, or just name flu epidemics like we name hurricanes, though this administration would probably start with George.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
While there's clearly been a lot to disappoint in President Obama's first hundred days, for conservatives there may indeed be a silver lining. It's the notion that Newton's Third Law -- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction -- may not apply just to physics but to politics as well. We've seen some of that reaction with the Tea Party protests that rose up organically across this nation, and as the President continues to overreach, conservatives have a real opportunity to present an agenda centered on fiscal sanity that will become increasingly attractive to more and more Americans.
What created this much-publicized impasse? Under long recognized legal and business principles, junior creditors are ordinarily not entitled to anything until senior secured creditors like our investors are repaid in full. Nevertheless, to facilitate Chrysler's rehabilitation, we offered to take a 40% haircut even though some groups lower down in the legal priority chain in Chrysler debt were being given recoveries of up to 50% or more and being allowed to take out billions of dollars. In contrast, over at General Motors, senior secured lenders are being left unimpaired with 100% recoveries, while even GM's unsecured bondholders are receiving a far better recovery than we are as Chrysler's first lien secured lenders.
Our offer has been flatly rejected or ignored. The fact is, in this process and in its earnest effort to ensure the survival of Chrysler and the well being of the company's employees, the government has risked overturning the rule of law and practices that have governed our world-leading bankruptcy code for decades.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Fox Network is making a smart business move by passing on tonight's press conference celebrating President Obama's first 100 days in office. Other networks are losing millions of dollars of advertising revenue to air what amounts to an unpaid political ad. [...]
Mr. Bush had to negotiate the timing of a 2005 news conference taking place during the first night of May sweeps, and when he went over the agreed-upon half-hour, the networks cut away. Ronald Reagan once suffered the same fate.
There is no tradition of all networks covering every press conference. George H.W. Bush waited three years into his presidency to hold his second evening news session, and the networks skipped it because it was not expected to produce major news. NBC and ABC chose not to cover Bill Clinton's April 18, 1995, press conference, believing the public was better served with new episodes of "Frasier" and "Full House."
Early reaction (Daily Kos, Glenn Greenwald, The New Republic, MyDD, Open Left) suggests Senator Arlen Specter has somehow managed to join a political Party that dislikes him even more than Republicans did.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It's a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse. In the name of containing "systemic risk," our regulators spread it. In order to keep Mr. Lewis quiet, they all but ordered him to deceive his own shareholders. And in the name of restoring financial confidence, they have so mistreated Bank of America that bank executives everywhere have concluded that neither Treasury nor the Federal Reserve can be trusted.
More from Bloomberg.com:
(Hat tip: http://www.instapundit.com)
Nancy Pelosi is "pushing back" against charges that she was aware of -- and acquiesced in -- the CIA's harsh interrogations of terrorist detainees nearly from the moment the practice began, reports the Politico Web site. Maybe she's suffering from amnesia. Maybe, for instance, the speaker doesn't remember that in September 2002, as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, she was one of four members of Congress who were briefed by the CIA about the interrogation methods the agency was using on leading detainees. "For more than an hour," the Washington Post reported in 2007, "the bipartisan group ... was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.
If we're going to investigate the interrogations of terrorists, let's start with the Speaker. What did she know, and when did she know it?
Monday, April 27, 2009
The government is about to take over GM in a plan that completely screws private bondholders and favors the unions. Get this: The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they're getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they're getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.
My young friends, this night I ask you: Make yours the voice that affirms life and motherhood. Be to those in need as the words of our alma mater: tender … strong … and true. And in your every word and deed, let the world see a reflection of the hope that led a French-born priest in the north woods of Indiana to raise Our Lady atop a dome of gold.I thank you for your invitation. I applaud your courage. And as we go forth this evening, let us pray that our beloved university becomes the Notre Dame our world so desperately needs: a witness for life that will truly shake down the thunder.
Also dropped down the memory hole -- along with the names of all the Democrats who thought Saddam was a menace who cried out for removal -- is what the ambience was like in late 2001 and 2002, when fears of anthrax and suitcase bombs ran rampant, and people on all sides tried to seem tough. Let's tell the truth about all the liberals who went on record supporting real torture, not to mention the Democrats in Congress, when it was cool to want to seem tough on our enemies, who couldn't be too warlike. Then war and tough measures stopped being cool, and "world opinion" became more important. Nothing like statements under oath to revive ancient memories! And rewind the tapes.
If Congress is truly committed to breaking oil's virtual monopoly over transportation fuel, by the same year  most of our new cars could also be capable of running on something other than gasoline. This can happen through the enactment of the bipartisan OPEN FUEL STANDARD ACT which was recently introduced in both the House (HR1476) and the Senate (S.835). The Open Fuel Standard (OFS) requires that starting in 2012, 50% of new automobiles powered by an internal combustion engine, and starting in 2015, 80% of such new automobiles, be flex fuel vehicles warranted to operate on gasoline, ethanol, and methanol, or be warranted to operate on biodiesel. It costs automakers an extra $100 per car to give us the insurance policy we need to prepare us for the next oil crisis that will surely come once we pull out of the recession.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
SAN'A, Yemen (AP) — The two young sons of a Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo died when a grenade they were playing with accidentally detonated inside their home, a human rights lawyer and the detainee's brother said Thursday.The two boys were the sons of Guantanamo prisoner #1463, Abdelsalam al-Hilah, a businessman who was captured in Cairo in 2002 and sent to Guantanamo on charges of terrorism, said Ahmed Irman of the Hood Organization for Defending Human Rights, an organization that advocates for Guantanamo detainees in Yemen.The children, Youssef, 11, and Omar, 10, were playing unsupervised with the grenade in a room in the house when it exploded. It is unclear why the grenade was in the house.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Visiting Mexico last week, President Obama said he will fight drug violence: "I will not pretend that this is Mexico's responsibility alone. The demand for these drugs inside the United States is keeping these cartels in business".
I don't expect politicians to be sticklers for logic, but this is ridiculous. Americans also have a hefty demand for Mexican beer, but there are no "Mexican beer cartels." When Obama visits France, he doesn't consult with politicians about "wine violence." What's happening on the Mexican border is prohibition-caused violence.
One simple proposal would be to repeal the 16th Amendment enacted in 1913 that authorized a federal income tax. This single change would strike at the heart of unlimited federal power and end the costly and intrusive tax code. Congress could then replace the income tax with a "uniform" national sales or "excise" tax (as stated in Article I, section 8) that would be paid by everyone residing in the country as they consumed, and would automatically render savings and capital appreciation free of tax.
The implication that almost all of the downturn of 2008 could be attributed to the oil shock is a stronger conclusion than emerged from any of the other models surveyed in my Brookings paper, and is a conclusion that I don't fully believe myself. Unquestionably there were other very important shocks hitting the economy in 2007-08, first among which would be the problems in the housing sector. But housing had already been subtracting 0.94% from the average annual GDP growth rate over 2006:Q4-2007:Q3, when the economy did not appear to be in a recession. And housing subtracted only 0.89% over 2007:Q4-2008:Q3, when we now say that the economy was in recession. Something in addition to housing began to drag the economy down over the later period, and all the calculations in the paper support the conclusion that oil prices were an important factor in turning that slowdown into a recession.
It is interesting also that the observed dynamics over 2007:Q4-2008:Q4 are similar to those associated with earlier oil shocks and recessions. The biggest drops in GDP come significantly after the oil price shock itself. What we saw in earlier episodes was that the drops in spending caused by the oil price increases resulted in lost incomes and jobs in affected sectors, with those losses then magnifying other stresses on the economy and producing a multiplier dynamic that gathered force over subsequent quarters. The mortgage delinquencies and financial turmoil in the current episode are of course not the specific stresses that operated in earlier downturns, but the broad features of that multiplier process are surprisingly similar to the historical pattern.
David Kellermann, the acting chief financial officer of the troubled Freddie Mac mortgage company, is the latest example of a particular — and particularly macabre — subset of human tragedy: the Washington suicide.
After today's tragic news, however, the most controversial comments are likely to be those that came well before Kellermann's apparent suicide.
In the wake of the AIG bonus scandal, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said of executives at that bailed out firm, "I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, 'I'm sorry,' and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide."
After the comment provoked intense criticism, Grassley dismissed it as simply heated rhetoric and not a literal suggestion that financial executives kill themselves.
Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny said Wednesday, "Senator Grassley expressed sympathy today for any family dealing with the tragedy of suicide. He appreciates from his own family history how painful suicide can be."
In an interview broadcast Monday on the CBC, Ms. Napolitano attempted to justify her call for stricter border security on the premise that "suspected or known terrorists" have entered the U. S. across the Canadian border, including the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack.
All the 9/11 terrorists, of course, entered the United States directly from overseas. The notion that some arrived via Canada is a myth that briefly popped up in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and was then quickly debunked.
Informed of her error, Ms. Napolitano blustered: "I can't talk to that. I can talk about the future. And here's the future. The future is we have borders."
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The richer everyone gets, the greener the planet will be in the long run.
By the 1990s, researchers realized that graphs of environmental impact didn't produce a simple upward-sloping line as countries got richer. The line more often rose, flattened out and then reversed so that it sloped downward, forming the shape of a dome or an inverted U — what's called a Kuznets curve. (See nytimes.com/tierneylab for an example.)
It's time to help put Arizona and America back on the right track by electing Chris Simcox to represent the Great State of Arizona in the United States Senate. As a grassroots, border security activist and founder of the original Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), Chris has done more to make Arizona a safer and better place to live than most of the sanctimonious career politicians in Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Monday, April 20, 2009
I was under the impression that Barrett was a good conservative, but apparently he flip-flopped to Obama's side to get a piece of the action. It will be difficult for him to regain his credibility for the South Carolina gubernatorial race.
The message from folks in Greenville to Congressman Gresham Barrett was clear Friday evening: Voters are mad about the $700 billion bailout he voted for and the massive government stimulus package he is now supporting.
Barrett, a Republican, attempted to speak before an estimated crowd of 4,000 people at a Post Tax Day Tea Party in the Upstate only to be greeted by boos from most everyone in attendance.
Friday, April 17, 2009
EPA's proposed endangerment finding is based on rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific analysis of six gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride – that have been the subject of intensive analysis by scientists around the world. The science clearly shows that concentrations of these gases are at unprecedented levels as a result of human emissions, and these high levels are very likely the cause of the increase in average temperatures and other changes in our climate.
Read the whole thing. The President now feels morally superior to his predecessor. It's messy and uncomfortable dealing with bad guys so lets just pretend like they're really just petty law breakers entitled to their constitutional rights. The problem is that they're not criminals, they're terrorists. They want to attack our country. We should not assure them of "fair treatment" if we're lucky enough to catch them. We should do what's necessary to protect American lives. We need more Jack Bauers and fewer Eric Holders in this country.
The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001.
Proponents of the release have argued that the techniques have been abandoned and thus there is no point in keeping them secret any longer; that they were in any event ineffective; that their disclosure was somehow legally compelled; and that they cost us more in the coin of world opinion than they were worth. None of these claims survives scrutiny.
The U.S. is an underdeveloped country when it comes to energy.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Americans for Tax Reform Foundation has estimated average prices and taxes imposed on 13 popular targets for multiple layers of hidden taxes.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Commander of the American Legion has sent the following letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano explaining to her that military veterans are not the enemy: [...]
The report states, without any statistical evidence, "The possible passage of new restrictions on firearms and the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks."
The American Legion is well aware and horrified at the pain inflicted during the Oklahoma City bombing, but Timothy McVeigh was only one of more than 42 million veterans who have worn this nation's uniform during wartime. To continue to use McVeigh as an example of the stereotypical "disgruntled military veteran" is as unfair as using Osama bin Laden as the sole example of Islam.
Your report states that "Rightwing extremists were concerned during the 1990s with the perception that illegal immigrants were taking away American jobs through their willingness to work at significantly lower wages." Secretary Napolitano, this is more than a perception to those who have lost their job. Would you categorize union members as "Right Wing extremists"?
Emission trading has the potential to be the next sub-prime housing market, the next Enron, the next blow to our already weakened economy.
"It was pretty remarkable that these snipers nailed these guys," said the senior military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "You think of rough seas, 75, 80 feet away, and under darkness, and they got them. Three pirates, three rounds, three dead bodies."
Monday, April 13, 2009
The Gulf of Aden is an exit from the Mediterranean, one of the world's most important seas, crossed annually by thousands of ships. So our campaign must be ruthless and pitiless: pirate ships must be sunk on sight and the crews left to swim to safety, if it can be reached.Many would complain about such tactics but, in my opinion, pirates have no rights – indeed, it will be vital to exclude human rights lawyers from the anti-piracy campaign. To bring any captives to Europe or America for trial would probably be to grant them their dearest wish, which is to secure entry to a new life in the First World.
Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it's all more complicated. The attorney general, Eric Holder, has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be "brought to justice" by the U.S. "I'm not sure exactly what would happen next," declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world's superpower. But some things we can say for certain. Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eyepatched peglegged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates' cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. constitution and that their peglegs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty's Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life.
This was not a rescue attempt ordered by National Command Authority i.e. the President. It was a reaction by the on scene commander under standard authority to safeguard the life of a hostage.
The AP is reporting that President Obama gave the order to use military force to rescue the hostage, that is misleading.
Capt. Richard Phillips, his hands tied and an AK-47 at his back, stood within feet of his captors on a bobbing lifeboat in the Indian Ocean when Navy snipers on the USS Bainbridge took aim Sunday. Cmdr. Frank Castellano, authorized by President Obama to act if the hostage was in "imminent danger," gave the snipers the order to fire, said Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command.
When it was over, three pirates who had been holding Phillips were dead and a fourth had surrendered and was in custody.
Friday, April 10, 2009
All this legal exquisiteness stands in contrast to what was once a more robust attitude. Pirates, said Cicero, were hostis humani generis -- enemies of the human race -- to be dealt with accordingly by their captors. Tellingly, Cicero's notion of piracy vanished in the Middle Ages; its recovery traces the recovery of the West itself.
By the 18th century, pirates knew exactly where they stood in relation to the law. A legal dictionary of the day spelled it out: "A piracy attempted on the Ocean, if the Pirates are overcome, the Takers may immediately inflict a Punishment by hanging them up at the Main-yard End; though this is understood where no legal judgment may be obtained."
Read the whole thing for some good background on where international law stands on piracy today.
Piracy, of course, is hardly the only form of barbarism at work today: There are the suicide bombers on Israeli buses, the stonings of Iranian women, and so on. But piracy is certainly the most primordial of them, and our collective inability to deal with it says much about how far we've regressed in the pursuit of what is mistakenly thought of as a more humane policy. A society that erases the memory of how it overcame barbarism in the past inevitably loses sight of the meaning of civilization, and the means of sustaining it.
Obviously, this incident has raised many concerns among Americans. There have been calls for justice and even violence against the misguided perpetrators. But such an emotional reaction has led to the disparagement of entire groups with which we are unfamiliar. We have seen this throughout history.
For too long, America has been too dismissive of the proud culture and invaluable contributions of the Pirate Community. Whether it is their pioneering work with prosthetics, husbandry of tropical birds or fanciful fashion sense, America owes a deep debt to Pirates.
The past eight years have shown a failure to appreciate the historic role of these noble seafarers. Instead of celebrating their entreprenuerial spirit and seeking to partner with them to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.
Some of us wonder if our current Overseas Contingency Operation would even be needed had the last administration not been so quick to label Pirates as "thieves," "terrorists" and worse. Such swashbucklaphobia can lead to tragic results, as we have seen this week.
As for the U.S., too often the operative language in dealing with pirates has been "no controlling legal authority," in part because, until now, all of the hijacked ships have operated under foreign flags. The case of the Maersk Alabama was (or would have been) clearly different. Still, the price the civilized world has paid for dispensing with the old Ciceronian wisdom that pirates were hostis humani generis -- enemies of the human race -- can probably now be counted in billions of dollars.
We don't advocate reverting to Roman methods (e.g., crucifixion) for dealing with pirates, though the Administration could apply the Stephen Decatur standard by bombing the Somali pirate city of Eyl. U.S. law is clear that pirates who attack U.S. flag ships deserve life in prison. But treating captured pirates as enemy combatants unworthy of Geneva Convention protections would help in cases where pirates attack foreign-flagged ships and international law is now more ambiguous.
The article goes on to document Biden's history of embellishing stories, which is another way of saying he's a natural politician. Imagine if Dick Cheney was caught making up stories about confronting Jimmy Carter -- it would be front page news. But for Biden, it's "just good ol' Joe".
"I hate to say this, but he's a serial exaggerator," Rove told FOX News. "If I was being unkind I would say liar. But it is a habit he ought to drop."
Rove added: "You should not exaggerate and lie like this when you are the Vice President of the United States."
Biden's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, although Biden spokesman Jay Carney told Fox on Wednesday: "The vice president stands by his remarks."
Carney was referring to two controversial assertions by Biden, the latest coming Tuesday during an interview on CNN.
"I remember President Bush saying to me one time in the Oval Office," Biden began, "'Well, Joe,' he said, 'I'm a leader.' And I said: 'Mr. President, turn and around look behind you. No one is following.'"
The exchange is purely "fictional," said Rove, who was Bush's top political adviser in the White House.
"It didn't happen," Rove, a FOX News contributor and former Bush adviser, told Megyn Kelly in an interview taped for "On The Record." "It's his imagination; it's a made-up, fictional world.
"He ought to get out of it and get back to reality," Rove added. "He's making this up out of whole cloth."
Rove's skepticism was echoed by a variety of other Bush aides, including former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, chief of staff Andy Card and legislative liaison Candida Wolff.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
An alternative approach would be to make it easier for people to buy insurance that isn't tied to their employment. The existing tax break for employer-provided insurance could be replaced with a tax credit that applies to insurance purchased either inside or outside the workplace. At the same time, state mandates that require insurers to cover certain conditions, which make it expensive to offer individual policies, could be removed.
These two reforms would address most people's anxieties about the health care system. Insurance would be more affordable, especially for people who cannot get it through an employer, so the number of people with insurance would rise. Indeed, this would enable more than 20 million more Americans to get insurance, according to a model created by Steve Parente, a health economist at the University of Minnesota.
More important, people would own their insurance policies and thus be able to take them from job to job. They would no longer need to worry about losing their job and their insurance at the same time, or feel they need to stay with a job they dislike because they need the benefits.
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
The President went even further in Prague, noting that "as a nuclear power -- as the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon -- the United States has a moral responsibility to act." That barely concealed apology for Hiroshima is an insult to the memory of Harry Truman, who saved a million lives by ending World War II without a bloody invasion of Japan. As for the persuasive power of "moral authority," we should have learned long ago that the concept has no meaning in Pyongyang or Tehran, much less in the rocky hideouts of al Qaeda.
The truth is that Mr. Obama's nuclear vision has reality exactly backward. To the extent that the U.S. has maintained a large and credible nuclear arsenal, it has prevented war, defeated the Soviet Union, shored up our alliances and created an umbrella that persuaded other nations that they don't need a bomb to defend themselves.
As soon as the UN Security Council passes another ineffectual resolution regretting the defiance of its last ineffectual resolution, the North knows it can eventually find the Obama administration back at a negotiating table for the charade's next act.
The meme in the press was how the test launch made Obama's disarmament speech all the more "urgent." It really makes it all the more childish and dangerous. In setting the goal of "Global Zero" (the program of universal disarmament that sounds a little like a new international Coke product), Obama hitched himself to a project as utopian as President George W. Bush's ambition to end tyranny in the world.
In fact, they're essentially the same goal. The bipartisan congressional Strategic Posture Review concluded in an interim report that to achieve Global Zero would require a "fundamental transformation of the world political order." All significant geopolitical conflicts would have to end, and all untrustworthy governments disappear. The verification regime would have to be so all-encompassing as to constitute a kind of world government.
The administration thinks Global Zero serves a hardheaded purpose against rogue states. The theory is that our arsenal makes us nuclear hypocrites. Only by pursuing its elimination do we gain the moral standing to pressure others to give up their nuclear ambitions.
Monday, April 06, 2009
Buffett endorsed Barack Obama for President last year, and Obama tapped Buffett to be a member of the candidate's economic team. Obama requently referred to Buffett's endorsement during the campaign as proof that he had the capability to deal with the troubled US economy.
Buffett's holding company, Berkshire Hathaway, profited from TARP in several ways according the the Bee story
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Parsing this new language:
- "… a commitment to free market principles …" has been replaced by "… based on market principles …". Note that the word "free" is nowhere in the document.
- "… rule of law …" is nowhere in the document
- "… private property …" is nowhere in the document
- "… open trade and investment …" has been replaced by "… open world economy …" (This one is fine, I think.)
- "… competitive markets …" and the word "competitive" are nowhere in the document
- "… efficient, effectively regulated financial systems" has been replaced by "effective regulation, and strong global institutions."
- The over-regulation caution is gone.
Nuclear weapons in the hands of charismatic leaders with dictatorial powers endanger everyone, said U.S. President Barack Obama today, "which is why North Korea should not be allowed to have them, and why the United States should disarm."
"I have seen first hand the power one man can amass," said Mr. Obama, "taking on an almost supernatural aura, and projecting the power of his personality deep into the lives of individuals until he controls everything from the companies they work for to the salaries they're paid. We can't afford to let such men near the nuclear triggers. We need aworld without nukes. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me."
Friday, April 03, 2009
I say let's have Election Day on tax day. Let's get what we're paying for. Sign the check — for the full amount — and write in your preferred candidates on the back of the same check.
Abracadabra . . . smaller government, here we come.
It sounds like someone got the wrong number from Bill Clinton's cell phone.
Journalists seeking to talk a little foreign policy with high-profile Obama administration officials live from the G20 meetings in London this week were solicited for phone sex instead after ringing up the toll-free number given by the White House.
In a press release, the White House accidentally listed a sex line number for journalists seeking an "on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones to discuss the NATO summit."
But after dialing, a soft-voiced female recording that was clearly not Clinton asked for a credit card number if you "feel like getting nasty."
Thursday, April 02, 2009
In the current set of bailouts, the government collects income taxes and gives the money to Wall Street. Under cap-and-trade, the government will sell well-heeled financiers the right to impose a massive and extremely regressive electricity sales tax on the nation and collect the revenue for their own profit directly. This will take kleptocracy to an entirely new level.
The Obama administration says that it hopes to raise some $650 billion in revenue for Uncle Sam through the sale of cap- and-trade carbon permits, and there is no reason to doubt this figure. However, that is only the government's piece of the action. Because of the tax farming feature built into the system, the cost to the public is likely to be far greater.
While publicly justified by President Obama as a means of achieving petroleum independence, the actual purpose of the cap-and-trade system as conceived by the environmental activists currently formulating White House energy policy is to combat global warming. However it won't contribute to achieving that goal either. Rather, by imposing a costly tax on the U.S. economy, cap-and-trade will cause American-made goods to cost more, allowing them to be displaced to an ever greater degree by those manufactured elsewhere, most notably China. As a result, the American economy will contract while the Chinese economy expands at U.S. expense. Since an even larger fraction of Chinese electricity and industrial process heat comes from coal than does American, the net effect of the cap-and-trade system will therefore be to increase the total carbon emissions released into the Earth's atmosphere, not decrease it. However not only will Chinese industrialists obtain a larger market share for their products, they will be able to charge more for them, since their competition will be priced even higher. Thus the big losers overall will not only be American manufacturers and workers, but the world's poor.
It is very unfortunate that the Obama administration has embraced a policy so thoroughly lacking in merit as cap-and-trade. If the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, this could be effectively advanced by removing obstacles to expansion of nuclear power. Instead, the administration has acted to dramatically reinforce such obstacles, most notably by halting the development of a permanent nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.
But if the goal is, as the president has said, — and as it indeed should be — is to break the hold of the oil cartel, then nuclear power, windmills, and certainly cap-and-trade electricity taxes are all off the subject. Rather, what is needed is a vehicle fleet that can run on liquid fuels that can be obtained independent of OPEC and its allies. This goal could be most quickly achieved by passing a law, such as the Open Fuel Standards Act (HR 1476), requiring that the majority of new cars sold in the U.S.A be fully flex fueled, i.e. able to run equally well on gasoline, ethanol, or methanol (which can be manufactured from any kind of biomass whatsoever, as well as coal, natural gas, and recycled urban trash). Since such a law would impel foreign car makers to switch their lines over to conform to the open fuel standard, this would rapidly transform the global automobile fleet so as to make it compatible with fuels that can be readily produced from non-petroleum sources worldwide, thereby completely unhinging the vertical monopoly of the oil cartel internationally.
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
While Congress has been flaying companies for giving out bonuses while on the government dole, lawmakers have a longstanding tradition of rewarding their own employees with extra cash -- also courtesy of taxpayers.
Capitol Hill bonuses in 2008 were among the highest in years, according to LegiStorm, an organization that tracks payroll data. The average House aide earned 17% more in the fourth quarter of the year, when the bonuses were paid, than in previous quarters, according to the data. That was the highest jump in the eight years LegiStorm has compiled payroll information.
Total end-of-year bonuses paid to congressional staffers are tiny compared with the $165 million recently showered on executives of American International Group Inc., which is being propped up by billions of dollars of U.S. government subsidies. But Capitol Hill bonuses provide a notable counterpoint to the populist rhetoric and sound bites emanating from Washington these past weeks.
Last year alone, more than 200 House lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats, awarded bonuses totaling $9.1 million to more than 2,000 staff members, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of office-disbursement forms. The money comes out of taxpayer-funded office budgets, and is surplus cash that would otherwise be forfeited if not spent.
Payments ranged from a few hundred dollars to $14,000. Lawmakers, at their own discretion, gave the money to chiefs of staff, assistants, computer technicians, and more than 100 aides who earned salaries of more than $100,000 a year.
Britain left behind the first global language; the legal system of a quarter of the world's nations; three-sevenths of the G7 major economies; 14 of the 25 jurisdictions with the highest GDP per capita; the four wealthiest countries with large populations (over 20 million); the key regional players in almost every corner of the globe, from South Africa to India to Australia; the least-worst part of China ...Contemporary Britain is an unlovely place sinking into a hell of Hogarthian depravity from which there are no easy roads back: Consider what LBJ's Great Society did to the black family, and then imagine it applied to the general population. The Britannic inheritance will last longer in India and Australia than in the mother country.
The Washington Post reports this morning that Holder has overruled OLC's objective, well-reasoned, constitutionally rooted opinion that the controversial D.C. voting-rights bill pending in Congress is unconstitutional. OLC's conclusion, if accepted by the attorney general, as is customary, would likely have doomed passage of the measure, which is strongly favored by President Obama and Democrats.
The bill would give the District of Columbia representation in Congress, specifically, one member of the House of Representatives — and, that accomplished, the way would be paved to add two Senate seats down the line. As the District is small and heavily Democrat, this would pull the Congress deeper into Democrat control. But the problem is that the Constitution clearly forbids the scheme. It expressly provides, in Article I, Section 2, "The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States." (Emphasis added.) The District of Columbia is not a State. It is thus ineligible for representation in the House. (By the way, Art. I, Sec. 3, similarly provides that senators shall come "from each State, elected by the people thereof.")
As NR's editors have observed (and as Matt Franck has recounted at NRO's Bench Memos — see this post, which cites to several of his others), the point of creating a non-state district as the seat of the national government was precisely to avoid one state's having too much influence over that government. Times may have changed — the national government is far more consequential now than it was then — but the Constitution hasn't.
Before talking about how we did get here, let me say a quick word about what didn't cause this mess. Those who wish to blame greed for the crisis need to explain how and why it is that greed seems to causes crises only at specific times, despite the fact that it is omnipresent as a feature of human nature and market economies. As the economist Larry White has noted, if we saw a bunch of planes crash all on the same day, we wouldn't blame gravity. It's always there. Something else must be at work. I would argue that the key is the set of institutions through which greed or self-interest is channeled. That is, good institutions can cause self-interest to generate desirable unintended consequences, and bad ones can cause undesirable ones. So perhaps we should be looking at institutions and policy.
Those who wish to blame deregulation or the supposed "laissez-faire" philosophy of the Bush Administration are going to have to identify the deregulation in question, which will be a challenge given that the last deregulatory legislation in the financial industry was in 1999 under Clinton. These folks will also have to explain how the enormous growth in the Federal Register and domestic spending over Bush's two terms reconciles with his supposed belief in laissez-faire. Answer: it doesn't.
The two key causes of this crisis are expansionary monetary policy on the part of the Fed and a series of regulatory and institutional interventions that channeled that excess credit into the housing market, creating a bubble that eventually had to burst. In other words, the boom (and the inevitable bust) are the product of misguided government policy, not unbridled capitalism.
The Fed drove up the money supply and drove down interest rates very consistently since 9/11. When central banks do so, they make long-term investments relatively cheaper than short-term ones, thus the excess funds flow toward such goods. Historically, these were producer goods in capital industries, but in this particular case, a set of other government interventions and policies pushed those funds toward housing.
A state-sponsored push for more affordable housing has been a staple of several prior administrations. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are key players here. Although they did not orginate the questionable mortgages, they did develop a number of the low down-payment instruments that came into vogue during the boom. More important, they were primarily responsible for the secondary mortgage market as they promoted the mortgage-backed securities that became the investment vehicle du jour during the boom. Both Fannie and Freddie are, we must remember, not "free-market" firms. They are "government-sponsored entities," at one time nominally privately owned, but granted a number of government privileges, in addition to carrying an implicit promise of government support should they ever get into trouble. With such a promise in place, the market for mortgage-backed securities was able to tolerate a level of risk that truly free markets would not. As we now know, that turned out to be a big problem.