Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What Does a Loser Look Like?

Apparently, something like this... According to CNN, Congressman Eliot Engel (D - 17 NY) scouted out his aisle seat at 8:30 a.m. this morning in efforts to maximize his face-time with BO and the cameras during the "Not a State of Union - State of the Union" this evening. I am sure that his constituents are ecstatic to know that their congressman has nothing better to do for 12+ hours...

Looting is Recession-Proof, Duh...

As the nation’s most populous metro area feels Wall Street’s pain, the fourth-largest—Washington—is barely sensing the recession. In fact, Moody’s Economy.com estimates that metro Washington’s economy will actually grow 2.5% from mid-2008 through mid-2010. New York’s economy is expected to shrink 4.2%...

It wouldn’t be the first time that Washington benefited from a national crisis. Back in 1930 the District of Columbia was a quiet Southern town, scoffed at by New York sophisticates. But as the federal government ramped up to fight first the Great Depression and then World War II, its population grew 65% in two decades.. “Oversight alone will [mean] tons of new jobs,” enthuses Jill Landsman, a spokeswoman for the Northern Virginia Assn. of Realtors, who says the pace of home sales has picked up over the past year even as prices have continued to fall.

Go figure. It's called rent-seeking.

One Man Crusade

Jeff Flake is lonely.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our President, the Liar

BO is continuing the Bush policy of denying habeas rights to foreign detainees:
The Justice Department today said it would adhere to the Bush administration's position that detainees imprisoned at a U.S. air base in Afghanistan have no right to challenge their confinement in U.S. courts.
Man.... all this change.... can we really handle it? Now, will someone please explain to me the difference between a detainee being held at Gitmo from being held in Bagram? Anyone?Bueller?

The Great Republican Hope??

In the aftermath of Gov. Jindal's Meet the Press appearance yesterday, and in anticipation of his response to BO's State of the Union on Tuesday, it looks as though the Republicans may be placing their early 2012 hopes on Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Well, Republicans take heed:

Everything the media tried to pin on Sarah Palin, Jindal actually did: he promoted and signed a creationism bill (with help from the Discovery Institute), he took part in an amateur exorcism and claimed it cured a woman of cancer, and possibly worst of all, he pals around with people on the extreme edges of fundamentalist Christianity, and at least one person who has associated with outright neo-Nazis.

From Little Green Footballs... Heh. Good luck. This is BO's dream. Mark my words.

Our President, the Hypocrite

Looks like we are now at war with Pakistan. From the NYT:

The missile strikes on training camps run by Baitullah Mehsud represent a broadening of the American campaign inside Pakistan, which has been largely carried out by drone aircraft. Under President Bush, the United States frequently attacked militants from Al Qaeda and the Taliban involved in cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, but had stopped short of raids aimed at Mr. Mehsud and his followers, who have played less of a direct role in attacks on American troops.

The strikes are another sign that President Obama is continuing, and in some cases extending, Bush administration policy in using American spy agencies against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, as he had promised to do during his presidential campaign. At the same time, Mr. Obama has begun to scale back some of the Bush policies on the detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, which he has criticized as counterproductive.

Mr. Mehsud was identified early last year by both American and Pakistani officials as the man who had orchestrated the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister and the wife of Pakistan’s current president, Asif Ali Zardari. Mr. Bush included Mr. Mehsud’s name in a classified list of militant leaders whom the C.I.A. and American commandos were authorized to capture or kill.

Law Professor, Eric Posner's take:

There is a nice legal question whether President Obama has initiated or accelerated a “new” war against the Taliban-in-Pakistan or is merely carrying on an “old” war against Al Qaida and the original Taliban albeit in a neighboring country. This nice legal question poses some challenges to Obama’s new legal team:

1. Is this new war in Pakistan undertaken pursuant to statutory authority or on the basis of the president’s commander-in-chief power (or both)? The only relevant statute on the horizon is the much-criticized-as-excessively-broad AUMF of 2001, which authorized hostilities against al Qaeda and related organizations in Afghanistan (“those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001”). Does the Obama administration read this statute as authorizing intervention in a civil war in Pakistan?

2. If not, is the new war in Pakistan undertaken pursuant to the president’s commander-in-chief power? And, then, what of the War Powers Resolution, which applies to the “introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicate by the circumstances, and to the continued use of such forces in hostilities or in such situations”? Under this law, the president must inform Congress and seek its consent. When can we expect this to happen?

For those of you that supported the "Bush Doctrine," properly understood (as opposed to the Sarah Palin interpretation), you have no right to complain now. Suck it up. And for those on the left that criticized the Bush administration's policy of unilateral intervention..., what sayeth you now?? That's what I thought.

Welcome Back...

A conservative critique of Presidential power from The American Conservative:

Right-wing presidentialism failed spectacularly under Bush and has now yielded to what may be the strongest expression of left-wing presidentialism since Franklin Roosevelt. Conservatives have an important lesson to learn here. They must not only oppose Obama as they once opposed FDR, they must recognize the threat that presidential power represents to an ordered Republic no matter which party occupies the Oval Office.

Whole thing here. Um, I've been saying this for about 4 years now...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dumb Laws (From the Town of My Birth)

Hattiesburg, Mississippi - via Volokh:

Sec. 16-1. Abusing policemen.

It shall be unlawful for any person to revile, abuse or ridicule any policeman of the city while in the discharge of his official duties. (Ord. 1504, sec. 1, 5-13-64; Ord. 425, sec. 1--2, 9-17-14)

Professor Volokh's take:

Pretty clearly unconstitutionally overbroad, especially since I couldn't find any case that limited this to unprotected speech (such as fighting words, which is to say individually targeted insults that are reasonable likely to cause a fight). Even if limited to fighting words, it might still be unconstitutional under R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul. But without such a limitation, the matter is even more clear.

Unconstitutional and, let's not forget, stupid. This isn't Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ranking the Chief

CSPAN recently ran a presidential ranking poll, in which Lincoln again ranked number 1 and GWB came in at 36. One of my top 5, the much maligned Warren G. Harding was, once again, listed in the bottom 5. Historians have no love for Harding because he was considered a "do-nothing" much like my man, Cal Coolidge. Notwithstanding the "cult-of-the-presidency" trend that dominates academia, historian David Beito is an exceptional defender of President Harding:

[A] president who successfully promoted economic prosperity, cut taxes, balanced the budget, reduced the national debt, released all of his predecessor's political prisoners, supported anti-lynching legislation, and instituted the most substantial naval arms reduction agreement in world history. Go figure.

Here is Gene Healy's excellent piece on the cult-of-the-presidency.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Predicting Predictions

George Will on the eco-doomsayers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Suicidal Stimulus

George Will makes an interesting point:

Not yet a third of the way through the president's "first 100 days," he and we should remember that it was not FDR's initial burst of activity in 1933 that put the phrase "100 days" into the Western lexicon. It was Napoleon's frenetic trajectory in 1815 that began with his escape from Elba and ended near the Belgian village of Waterloo.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Cynic's Cynic

Tom Smith, discussing the Keynsian multiplier, absolutely kills it:

I repeat my view that fiscal stimulus has a large multiplier. So you find a person that has a great idea for a business or wants to be an engineer. You take away his money and give it to a bunch of people in Washington or Sacramento. They look at it, count it, fight over what to do with it, often for years, then finally use what's left of it to pay somebody else (who can't be fired) to teach another guy who wants to be an engineer that engineering is patriarchal. So he changes his major to comparative cultural studies, drops out before graduating, and eventually goes into the illegal drug business, in which he sells ambition-sapping substances to the children of people who braved a hundred miles of fatal desert and miscellaneous human predators to get into this country. Now you need more money to put these children in prison. Meanwhile, having gathered yet more money as per above, the people take what is left after having paid themselves, and pay it to still other people, whose job it is monitor, regulate and generally harass those people who are crazy enough to try to be productive, their motives being only partially pecuniary. Other cycles exist simultaneously, such as taxing people indirectly to pay the people who make the money from the various special favors, rents, monopolies, etc. that they got for using some of this money to pay the campaign costs of the people who granted them the special favors, etc.-- but we do this not so much to stimulate ourselves as to improve our quality of life and promote justice. These go on in a cyclical fashion until much productive activity has to done in secret, like Catholicism under Cromwell or homosexuality in 1950's America. None of this includes, of course, the psychic costs of having to listen all along to how wonderful all this is, and how good for us, and how anybody who disagrees is stupid. The multiplier is large, and its sign is negative.


Our President, the Liar

The Obama administration has decided to continue the Bush policy of asserting the State Secrets Privilege. NYT story here. Glenn Greenwald on the matter here.


Larry Lindsey has suggested (echoing Newt) that it makes far more sense to actually cut marginal tax rates, rather than provide welfare payments disguised as tax cuts, to prime the national economic pump:

[For an amount of money equal to the proposed stimulus package], the government could essentially cut the payroll tax in half, taking three points off the rate for both the employer and the employee. This would put $1,500 into the pocket of a typical worker making $50,000, with a similar amount going to his or her employer. It would provide a powerful stimulus to the spending stream, as well as a significant, six percentage point reduction in the tax burden of employment for people making less than $100,000. The effects would be immediate.

Ahh. Larry. You poor, poor simpleton. Don't you realize that under your plan, people would be allowed to spend (or invest or save) their own money, rather than delegating that priviledge to the powermongers domiciled in Washington? That is not the point of this exercise, sir.

Our President, the Liar

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Need a House, and Car, and a Kitchen...

Geez (can't say he didn't bring this on himself):

... and wtf?

It Begins...

In last night's press conference, BO repeated his oft quoted line concerning the much needed modernization of the "American Health Care industry." Hm. Sounds nice. Technology is good. Progress is the most. But, have you been wondering what this means in practice? Well, apparently there is a provision in the so-called "stimulus" bill that will spend $1.1 billion on research comparing medical treatments for the purpose "limiting treatments that don't work well." That's right. And guess who determines what "works" and what does not...? Here comes rationing. Enjoy.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Milton the Great

Can We Start Using the Real Number?

It's $9.7 Trillion. This is child abuse.

Friday, February 06, 2009

To The Point

As Charles Krauthammer does so well:

It’s the essential fraud of rushing through a bill in which the normal rules (committee hearings, finding revenue to pay for the programs) are suspended on the grounds that a national emergency requires an immediate job-creating stimulus — and then throwing into it hundreds of billions that have nothing to do with stimulus, that Congress’s own budget office says won’t be spent until 2011 and beyond, and that are little more than the back-scratching, special-interest, lobby-driven parochialism that Obama came to Washington to abolish. He said.

Read the whole excellent article here.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Garbage, indeed.

Harvard economist Robert Barro calls the stimulus bill “garbage:"
This is probably the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s. I don’t know what to say. I mean it’s wasting a tremendous amount of money. It has some simplistic theory that I don’t think will work, so I don’t think the expenditure stuff is going to have the intended effect. I don’t think it will expand the economy. And the tax cutting isn’t really geared toward incentives. It’s not really geared to lowering tax rates; it’s more along the lines of throwing money at people. On both sides I think it’s garbage. So in terms of balance between the two it doesn’t really matter that much.
Atlantic article here. I am baffled by this thing. Please, someone, direct me towards the stimuli? As James Buchanan once insightfully pointed out, "the great flaw in Keynesianism is that it ignores the obvious, self-interested incentives of government actors implementing fiscal policy and creates intellectual cover for what would otherwise be viewed as self-serving and irresponsible behavior by politicians." Bingo. This bill is nothing more than a collective "load-blowing" of a Democractic party that spent the last eight years having too many of its wishes stifled by the Bushies. Unbelievable.

With All Due Respect, Mr. President

From CATO:
President Obama says that "economists from across the political spectrum agree" on the need for massive government spending to stimulate the economy. In fact, many economists disagree. Hundreds of them, including Nobel laureates and other prominent scholars, have signed a statement that the Cato Institute has placed in major newspapers across the United States.
Whole piece here. BO, apparently, isn't allowing the facts to get in the way of his agenda...

Food For Thought

Robin Hanson writes:
[T]he more public attention we give to the stimuli, the less they might work. We might make people realize that they need to compensate via saving, and the more we scare folks into thinking we need huge stimuli, the more we might scare them away from normal economic activity levels.
Where, o, where, are the critics of the Bush-fear-mongering methods...? Hacks.

Herd Mentality

From NewScientist:

Scott Wiltermuth of Stanford University in California and colleagues have found that activities performed in unison, such as marching or dancing, increase loyalty to the group. "It makes us feel as though we're part of a larger entity, so we see the group's welfare as being as important as our own," he says.

Read it here. Uh - "Yes We Can." Right.

The College Bubble

Kathy Kristof, at Forbes, claims there is:

...an unfolding education hoax on the middle class that's just as insidious, and nearly as sweeping, as the housing debacle. The ingredients are strikingly similar, too: Misguided easy-money policies that are encouraging the masses to go into debt; a self-serving establishment trading in half-truths that exaggerate the value of its product; plus a Wall Street money machine dabbling in outright fraud as it foists unaffordable debt on the most vulnerable marks.

Whole thing here. And the easy access to credit, coupled with the deplorable idea that the federal government should assist students with their tuition obligations, have directly contributed to the exponential increase in the cost of 'higher education.' Is a Harvard bachelor's degree really worth $130,000 (a four-year estimate as of 2008) or is the Board of Trustees simply pricing out the lower three-quarters?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"Tom Daschle would suck off a corpse for a cheeseburger..."

Glenn Greenwald has some interesting insights:

...[Daschle] embodies everything that is sleazy, sickly, and soul-less about Washington. It's probably impossible for Obama to fill his cabinet with individuals entirely free of Beltway filth -- it's extremely rare to get anywhere near that system without being infected by it -- but Daschle oozes Beltway slime from every pore....

Wowza. Whole fabulously entertaining read here.

Letter from Mr. Phelps

I wish.

Sarah the Porker

Michael Tanner on Palin and the 'Stimulus Bill':

Palin does urge Congress to “consider” whether the stimulus bill is too big and burdens future generations with debt, but unlike some other governors (Sanford, Barbour, Jindal, for example), she does not call for the bill’s defeat or urge her congressional delegation to vote against it. Instead, she goes on to raise her big concern with the bill – it doesn’t give enough money to Alaska

Do Republicans honestly consider this woman to be a viable challenger to BO...? Whole thing here.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Bring on the Change

Er, maybe not. Typical.

Big Numbers

George Will on the US government's shady accounting methodology:

Were the Social Security surplus sequestered for accounting purposes, reflecting the truth that it is already obligated, and were there similar treatment of the other entitlement programs' liabilities, the deficit for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 would have been $3 trillion rather than $454.8 billion. The report's numbers show that the true national debt is $56 trillion, not the widely reported $10 trillion.

[I]n 25 years the portion of the population 65 and older will increase from 12 percent to 20 percent, while the share of the population that is working and paying taxes will decrease from 60 percent to 55 percent. If Medicare spending continues to grow, as it has for four decades, more than 1 1/2 times as fast as the economy, the big three entitlements, which currently are 44 percent of all federal expenditures (excluding interest costs of the national debt), will be 65 percent by 2030. Under current law, 30 years from now government revenue will cover only half of anticipated expenditures.

Yikes. Whole thing here.