9:39 Bush throws down the gauntlet on immigration reform, likening anti-immigrant sentiment to protectionism or socialism. Ignores the distinction between legal and illegal immigration.
9:41 Earmark reform! Line-item veto!
9:43 Bitter Dems cheer the failure to reform Social Security. Hillary enthusiastically.
9:46 Here comes the health care proposal. MSAs, portability, and medical lawsuit reform.
9:48 Federal funding for energy independence. Funding for government research. Zero-emission coal, solar, and nuclear. Hybrid, electric, hydrogen, biofuel cars.
9:51 Federal funding for science. Make permanent R&D tax credit.
9:52 Federal funding for Advanced Placement teachers.
9:54 Abortion down, morals up. "Government has played a role."
With the country this polarized, though, I doubt he gets more than a couple points from the State of the Union speech.
So, the fallout from the housing boom, the unfinished business from the stock boom and all the derivatives he's championed for his beloved deregulated financial system will combine to hit with full force somewhere down the road. By then, of course, Greenspan will be long gone. He, as well as everyone else who's incapable of understanding what really happened, will be blaming our problems on the next Fed chairman. I have no sympathy for Ben Bernanke. But we must understand what actually took place and not let this arrogant buffoon Greenspan get away with his attempt to rewrite history.
Greenspan really is terrible. He facilitated the stock market bubble. Then, to postpone the pain, he created the greatest housing bubble in history. The housing bubble bursting will be painful.
We are approaching an era of stagflation. Inflation will rise as the deflationary effect of cheap imports subsides. Interest rates will rise as Asia decides to stop buying Treasury bonds that the Fed is determined to devalue. Sell your bonds and buy gold.
According to Senate aides, Dr. Coburn has notified his colleagues that he intends to challenge every earmark—or pork project—on the floor of the U.S. Senate. Coburn, who has been a champion in the fight against wasteful federal spending, believes that the congressional earmarking process is the genesis of the current Abramoff-related lobbying scandals.
Coburn’s threat will dramatically slow the appropriations process because he will demand many more votes and more debate than normal on all spending bills. The added debate will allow senators to learn the merits (or lack thereof) of each earmark and affirm or reject.
According to one GOP Senate aide, many of the old-bull appropriators are not taking the threat seriously and are confident in their ability to apply pressure tactics and parliamentary maneuvers in order to ensure business as usual on spending bills. But that aide points out Coburn’s commitment, “It will take a lot of votes on one or two appropriations bills before the appropriators figure out that [Coburn] means business.”
Table 4-4 on page 82 in CBO’s Budget and Economic Outlook of  shows that the estimates for capital-gains tax liabilities had been lowered to $46 billion in 2004 and $52 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $98 billion. Compare the original $125 billion total to the new $98 billion total, and we can infer that CBO was forecasting that the tax cut would cost the government $27 billion in revenues.
Those are the estimates. Now let’s see how things really turned out. Take a look at Table 4-4 on page 92 of the Budget and Economic Outlook released this week. You’ll see that actual liabilities from capital-gains taxes were $71 billion in 2004, and $80 billion in 2005, for a two-year total of $151 billion. So let’s do the math one more time: Subtract the originally estimated two-year liability of $125 billion from the actual liability of $151 billion, and you get a $26 billion upside surprise for the government. Yes, instead of costing the government $27 billion in revenues, the tax cuts actually earned the government $26 billion extra.
Oh, yes, "tax cuts for the rich," indeed.
In an interview, Conrad said that in remarks to fellow Democrats at the caucus, he outlined several factors. These included Alito's strong backing from the American Bar Association, his uncontested confirmation 15 years ago to the appeals court, public opinion polls and the fact that Republicans had voted overwhelmingly to confirm Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer when President Clinton nominated them.
"The problem of France today is obvious," he says. "Our social model is dead. We are not able to continue to finance our system as it is running today."
"In the early 1980s the US and the UK revolutionised their economies to face globalisation. We have refused to do so and in election after election we have chosen politicians who have told us we can do without change."
His new book is called The Society of Fear. How appropriate.
How delightfully ironic, then, that McCain's "Gang of 14" made judicial filibusters impossible and allowed the nomination and confirmation of a free speech advocate like Samuel Alito who is pro-First Amendment and likely to overturn McCain-Feingold!
Kerry has answered the challenge. Today he promised to filibuster Alito. Never mind that by the time he promised it, it was already clear that there weren't enough votes to sustain a filibuster.
John Kerry: not a coward, just a fool!
This is a blatant pander to the left-wing base, as delusional Kerry still thinks he can win the 2008 nomination. The base might like a feeble attempt at a filibuster, but they're not going to forget his feeble attempt at a presidential campaign.
A teacher in junior high school explained libertarianism as a "third way"; while "liberals" think people should be able to get high and "conservatives" think people should be able to own guns, libertarians think people should be able to get high and own guns.
It is, to me, an obvious and basic human right that people should be able to do whatever they want as long as they are not harming others. Libertarianism, though, is not just about what is right, but also what is practical. In the economic realm, freedom works. It's been written about endlessly from Adam Smith to Milton Friedman. It's the reason America works, socialist Europe doesn't work so well, and fully Communist countries are even worse.
We've obviously strayed far from libertarian values since the Constitution was written. McCain-Feingold, for instance says, "My right to free speech ends where a politician's re-election campaign begins."
Here's to a new Supreme Court restoring our rights!
A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.
Unfortunately, in Somerset, the new law looks more like a body blow than a "swipe." The rural county is Maryland's poorest, with per capita personal income 46% below the state average and a poverty rate 130% above it. Somerset's enduring problem is weak labor demand that greatly limits its 25,250 residents' economic opportunities.
There are just 0.8 jobs per household in Somerset, barely half the 1.5 figure that applies to the rest of the state. Somerset's top 10 list of employers features sectors like food services (average annual compensation per employee: $9,637), poultry and egg production ($14,320) and seafood preparation and packaging ($19,190).
It is hard to exaggerate how much the planned distribution center might have meant to Somerset's economy. Using an input-output model, we forecast the "ripple effects" of the new income and spending that could have emanated from Wal-Mart's facility as follows:
• The center's 800 employees would have created an additional 282 jobs among "upstream" suppliers and "downstream" retailers and service establishments; all told, the center would have boosted county employment by 14% and private-sector employment by 20%.
• Total annual employee compensation in Somerset would have risen by $46.5 million, or 19%.
• Annual output (or "gross county product") would have risen by $128.3 million, or 19%.
• State and local tax receipts would have increased by $19.2 million annually; this would include $8.5 million in property taxes, $5.6 million in sales taxes, and $1.4 million in personal income taxes.
Those losses, though dramatic, probably understate the full extent of the damage in this case. They do not include forgone employment and income from construction of the facility and related infrastructure improvements. What is more, Wal-Mart's tentative plans for a second distribution center in Garrett County, in mountainous western Maryland, also appear dead. Garrett, with a poverty rate that is 70% above the state's, is only slightly better off than Somerset.
The rise of alternative media--political talk radio in the 1980s, cable news in the '90s, and the blogosphere in the new millennium--has broken the liberal monopoly over news and opinion outlets. The left understands acutely the implications of this revolution, blaming much of the Democratic Party's current electoral trouble on the influence of the new media's vigorous conservative voices. Instead of fighting back with ideas, however, today's liberals quietly, relentlessly and illiberally are working to smother this flourishing universe of political discourse under a tangle of campaign-finance and media regulations. Their campaign represents the most sustained attack on free political speech in the United States since the 1798 Alien and Sedition Acts. Though Republicans have the most to lose in the short run, all Americans who care about our most fundamental rights and the civic health of our democracy need to understand what's going on--and resist it.Read the whole thing. They still want to control political expression on the Internet. Good thing we're about to get a free speech absolutist on the Supreme Court -- but Alito is just one vote.
UPDATE: This suggests we might be on the verge of a 5-4 free speech coalition on the Supreme Court. Guess where the so-called "liberals" fall on the issue of free speech (but we don't care about other freedoms, as long as we get abortion on demand!).
He's good. Two main points:
1) Known leftists like Ginsburg and Breyer got overwhelmingly approved because they were qualified. Why the double standard for conservatives?
2) The left wants to implement its agenda through activist judges, because it can't win via elected representatives.
I agree entirely with both.
Now Ted Kennedy is talking, and he's not bad either. He's talking about limits to executive power. Maybe Kennedy should have focused more on that earlier, and less on the Princeton capers.
1) Condoleezza Rice
2) Rudy Giuliani
3) George Allen
4) Newt Gingrich
5) Dick Cheney
I've studied Judge Alito's legal record. I met with him one-on-one. After all this, I am left with one simple conclusion: if Judge Alito becomes Supreme Court Justice Alito, he will move the Court backwards.
I will vote against Judge Alito's confirmation, and I hope a majority of Senators choose to join us on the Senate floor, voting and speaking out against him. I know we face tough odds, but this is an important fight.
What he doesn't say is that he will filibuster Alito. So here's John Kerry, saying that Alito will move the court backward and should be defeated, but he's only willing to throw out a meaningless "no" vote, and won't actually help to block the nomination by filibuster.
Coward! He's voting for Judge Alito before he votes against him!
It doesn't always work though. Tonight I got a computerized call from Sears, asking me about some oven I didn't buy.
At least you can report the violators, in the hope that the regulators will go after them if there are a lot of complaints.
Screw Sears. I hope they go bankrupt again.
Kerry has a very different take on the Bin Laden tapes:
President Bush's mouthpiece Scott McClellan can claim this administration puts terrorists out of business, but yesterday's tape reminds us that instead of being out of business, Osama is still out there.
Actually, what the tape reminds me is that Bin Laden is a pathetic, impotent jackass hiding in a cave. And that thanks to improved intelligence and security, and rounding up a whole bunch of bad guys around the world, America has been safe from terrorist attacks for more than four years. I found the tape comical in its bluster and empty braggadocio: a coward hiding in a cave offers America surrender terms.
The charitable reading of Kerry's comments is that he's using Bin Laden for political purposes to get in a shot at Bush. The alternative is that Kerry is an idiot who actually believes that finding a bogeyman in a cave is more important than the significant progress we have made in dismantling Al Qaeda's terrorist capabilities and preventing further attacks.
A Danish fashion firm is to sell T-shirts inspired by rebel fighters, with proceeds to go to militant groups.
The T-shirts have as logos the initials of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
The firm, Fighters and Lovers, says it will donate 5 euros (£3) for each T-shirt it sells.
Who would have been a better choice?
"This is a very poor choice," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said after he and fellow Democrats privately discussed Bush's nomination of Alito.
"He (Bush) should have gone with Harriet Miers," Reid said.
Yes, Miers was OBVIOUSLY so much more qualified than Alito. What does he know about the Constitution anyway?
Of course Reid would rather have a flip-flopping, unprincipled moderate who doesn't understand the Constitution. Just like I would love to have complete buffoons as head of the Democratic Party and as House minority leader, the kind of jackasses whose antics cost their candidates 5 points in every election. Oh, wait. I have that already!
As an amateur psychologist, it is my opinion that Bin Laden is experiencing grief and anger over his terrorist buddies being killed in a really cool missile strike. And he's feeling impotence at not having been able to get off a terrorist attack against the US in over four years. And he might be syphilitic from being cooped up in a cave with goats for four years.
What do you think that will do to California's budget, which is afloat only due to huge increases in property taxes from the real estate boom? And what do you think it will do to the jackass who just paid $600,000 for a condo with a variable rate mortgage he can barely afford? And the bank that lent it to him?
Only it didn't turn out that way.
I'm against capital punishment. But the always completely innocent killers on death row and their gullible liberal supporters keep trying to change my mind.
Not really surprising, but gratifying. It would be nice to see some more of the few non-insane Democrats in the Senate supporting Alito. Lieberman, for one, although he's from a blue state and might not want to piss off the base.
It was only two weeks ago that one Democrat Hill staffer declared, "Put a fork in Scalito." How quickly things change.
But maybe things can still change. I hear Ted Kennedy has information that Alito once watched a racially insensitive skit on Saturday Night Live... or at least knew someone who once wrote a satirical article.
Things could get really ugly. Greenspan has created the mother of all housing bubbles in order to keep consumers spending like idiots. It's got to end some time.
"I couldn't believe BART would allow something like this. Why are they doing this?''
Yeah, why can't we live in a world where only leftists are allowed to express themselves and anyone with a dissenting viewpoint is sent to a re-education camp?
UPDATE: James Taranto answers the woman who questions why BART would allow it:
Uh, maybe because the right to free speech actually is in the Constitution? Why should anyone respect fake constitutional rights if these people refuse to respect real ones?
Corporate Taxes, Government Spending Hit Records:
WASHINGTON - The federal government posted the first budget surplus for December in three years as corporate tax payments hit an all-time high, helping offset a record level for spending, the Treasury Department reported Thursday.
The department said in its monthly budget report that government receipts surpassed spending by $10.98 billion last month. A year ago, the government ran a deficit of $2.85 billion in December.
The improvement reflected the fact that government receipts were up 12.1 percent from a year ago to $241.88 billion while government spending rose by a slower 5.6 percent to $230.9 billion. The figure for outlays still represented an all-time high for spending for any month.
Corporate income tax collections totaled a record $73.5 billion last month, surpassing the old record of $72 billion set in September.
Arthur Laffer illustrated it well, and everyone understands it, except for Democrats: cutting tax rates expands the economy, which leads to an increase in tax revenues.
By all accounts, Alito is making his Democratic inquisitors look like what they are, which is a bunch of idiots. How about this exchange, where Chucky Schumer learns that the Constitution specifically refers to freedom of speech, but does not contain the word "abortion:"
SCHUMER: Does the Constitution protect the right to free speech?
ALITO: Certainly it does. That's in the First Amendment.
SCHUMER: So why can't you answer the question of: Does the Constitution protect the right to an abortion the same way without talking about stare decisis, without talking about cases, et cetera?
ALITO: Because answering the question of whether the Constitution provides a right to free speech is simply responding to whether there is language in the First Amendment that says that the freedom of speech and freedom of the press can't be abridged. Asking about the issue of abortion has to do with the interpretation of certain provisions of the Constitution.
SCHUMER: Well, OK. I know you're not going to answer the question…
UPDATE: The Mobile Register agrees:
WAKE US up when the hearings are over.
Watching the brilliant, modest and calmly dignified Judge Samuel Alito be lectured on ethics and intellectual consistency by the likes of Sens. Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden and Patrick Leahy would be extremely annoying if the whole thing weren't so sleep-inducing.
The judge, soon expected to be a justice of the Supreme Court, is outclassing his critics by about the same degree with which boxer Joe Louis would have outclassed Pee Wee Herman in the ring.
OpinionJournal has a piece from a social conservative point of view arguing that Goldwater was really a social conservative and only embraced libertarianism late in his life.
At least it makes clear that Goldwater was disgusted with the people that make up the current religious right. Long before Rick Santorum made a career out of comparing homosexuals to dog molesters, Goldwater said, "Every good Christian should kick [Jerry] Falwell in the ass."
It's worth a read. If you know your history, then you would know where you coming from.
Still, the author seems to confuse libertarianism with amorality. We know that Goldwater was a moral and religious man. That doesn't make him anti-libertarian. It's possible to be against cultural decay but also to be against censorship, and to be against drug abuse but also against the war on drugs. In fact, I think that's the most enlightened position to hold.
Go ahead, see how many you can name without looking it up. If you can name even a few, you're brighter than the vast majority of Americans. If you can name eight or nine, you're in rare air.
I think Wal-Mart could be on the verge of a substantial, multi-year move up that will make $46 look like a ridiculously good entry point.
Several countries, such as Australia, Britain and Italy, are now providing biometric passports, in which the photograph of the bearer is put on a microchip so it can be read by face-recognition technology.
But in France, the planned roll-out last year was suspended after unions took legal action to stop the government using a private printing company for the new passports instead of the state-owned National Printers which is mandated to make all administrative documents.
The result has been major woes for French people wanting to travel to the United States, with many forced to cancel their plans. Over the end-of-year holiday period, the US embassy put on extra staff to deal with the increased demand, but the queues have kept growing. Now, according to an embassy spokeswoman, an applicant cannot get an interview date before February 14. The backlog is affecting all those needing visas: not just tourists with newer passports, but also students and business travellers.
French travel companies say the situation is having a significant adverse effect.
Full story here.
As to [...] “stealth candidate” allegations, to the extent that Republican nominees have ever been accused of soft-pedaling their personal ideological preferences in the past, there’s a strong argument that doing so is, in fact, a rational response to Democrats who refuse to extend to Republican nominees the same courtesy that Republicans show Democratic ideologues like former ACLU counsel Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Kennedy staffer Stephen Breyer. When the Democrats can treat, say, the former counsel of National Right to Life and a former Jesse Helms staffer with fairness and respect, then Professor Gordon can start complaining about “stealth” judges. Based on the behavior displayed at today’s opening statements, that day will be a long time in coming.
The banking industry has done a great thing, says another smug economist from the American Banking Association. By encouraging people to borrow against their houses it has helped people "free up illiquid assets." In 2005, they helped people "free up" $200 billion worth of illiquid assets.
Surely, they should get a Nobel Peace Prize for that! Imagine all those poor people who have been liberated from their own houses. Last year, they owned a roof over their heads, or "illiquid asset." Now, they own last year's hit CDs and have fond memories of last year's vacations in Las Vegas. Of course, they now have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with a lending institution, too.
We wish you well in your faith that war has become obsolete and that outlaw nations will comply with international jurisprudence that was born and is nurtured in Europe. Yet your own intelligence suggests that the Iran theocracy is both acquiring nuclear weaponry and seeking to craft missile technology to put an Islamic bomb within reach of European cities — oblivious to the reasoned appeals of European Union diplomats, who themselves operate as Greek philosophers in the agora only on the condition that Americans will once more play the role of Roman legionaries in the shadows....Go on, click over and read the whole thing. Excerpts don't do it justice.
The European strategy of selling weapons to Arab autocracies, triangulating against the United States for oil and influence, and providing cash to dubious terrorists like Hamas has backfired. Polls in the West Bank suggest Palestinians hate you, the generous and accommodating, as much as they do us, the staunch ally of Israel.
So, terrorists of the Middle East seem to have even less respect for you than for the United States, given they harbor a certain contempt for your weakness as relish to the generic hatred of our shared Western traditions....
The world is becoming a more dangerous place, despite your new protocols of childlessness, pacifism, socialism, and hedonism. Islamic radicalism, an ascendant Communist China, a growing new collectivism in Latin America, perhaps a neo-czarist Russia as well, in addition to the famine and savagery in Africa, all that and more threaten the promise of the West.
So criticize us for our sins; lend us your advice; impart to America the wealth of your greater experience — but as a partner and an equal in a war, not as an inferior or envious neutral on the sidelines. History is unforgiving. None of us receives exemption simply by reason of the fumes of past glory.
Either your economy will reform, your populace multiply, and your citizenry defend itself, or not. And if not, then Europe as we have known it will pass away — to the great joy of the Islamists but to the terrible sorrow of America.
There are many great parts of the movie: destroying Paris while fighting terrorists, the hilarious Kim Jong-Il character, and Michael Moore as a suicide bomber. But the most impressive part of the film is its brilliant foreign policy analogy which relates world leaders to body parts. It's really funny, but also the most apt description of global politics I've seen anywhere. In short, the Axis of Evil is evil. President Bush and the Americans are brutish and cocky, but necessary to stop the Axis of Evil. The UN and Europeans hate America for its brutishness, but would be helpless to defend themselves without America.
One question I've had since seeing the movie is, what's the deal with Matt Damon always saying "Matt Damon" in a retarded voice? Is that some kind of inside Hollywood joke? I've finally found the answer here:
TREY: The way that happened was funny, too, because it wasn't in the script. What's funny is that you can only use one skull that these faces go over so many times, and you'd be like, "Oh, let's make this person." And you try to make them, and it really didn't look that much like them because you always had to deal with the same eye things that define a person's face. Sometimes, you'd get a puppet that looked close, and sometimes you just didn't. With the Matt Damon one, I remember, they brought it down, and we were supposed to shoot Matt Damon that day, and the puppeteers came down and were like, "Here's Matt Damon!" We were like "Dude! That doesn't look like Matt Damon! He looks like retarded!" So what are we going to do? Probably out of all those people, Matt Damon we've met before, and he's actually a pretty cool guy and a talented actor. So it's just because his puppet was screwed up.
Massive new spending and more debt than the human mind is capable of contemplating.
The Index ranks countries on a range of measures around tax rates, regulation, and property rights. Those countries with lower taxes, less burdensome regulation, and respect for property rights have significantly higher standards of living.
Excel monkeys, get the raw data here.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, take a look at this one:
When Democrats moan about "tax cuts for the rich," those tax cuts do not just benefit the already rich but create an economic environment that allows everyone to become richer. Don't like it? Move to France. They've got a stagnant economy and huge unemployment, but hey, at least the welfare checks are pretty good!
UPDATE: Edited to remove the guy's name. I hope nobody harasses him or his employer. He was good-natured and his sign was innocuous a...
Body Count goes to Vegas! Ernest Scherer III was a Vegas loser who fancied himself a professional poker player. Doesn't that photo t...
I talk a lot about inflation. But today was the first time in my life I actually used a dollar bill as toilet paper.