Friday, March 30, 2012

Tell Me Again Why the Travyon Martin Case Is Making National Headlines?

I really just don't get it.  It would have been one thing if Travyon Martin had been killed by some mean sadistic racist who was frothing at the mouth waiting for a innocent black kid to cross his path, but that isn't what happened at all.  A guy, George Zimmerman, who just wanted to make sure there weren't criminals prowling his neighborhood saw someone who he didn't recognize walking between the houses (instead of on the sidewalk like a normal person) in his gated community, challenged him and then got into a fight where Travyon ended up dead after he thoroughly beat up Zimmerman.  I'm sure there were things that Zimmerman could have done to make this end better and not just by ignoring Martin, as he had a right to be suspicious.  After all it was dark and he saw a tall hooded figure walking between houses, what kind of neighborhood watch captain would ignore that?  Even Jesse Jackson has previously admitted:

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.

Anyway, there were also things that Travyon Martin could have done too.  He could have simply said that he is staying with his father at his girlfriends house and that would have been it.  I don't think 5'9" Zimmerman would have tried to tackle 6'3" Martin. 

In other words, this was an unfortunate incident that probably could have been averted by both sides, so why is it making national headlines again?  Aren't there bigger issues or worse crimes?  Take the very recent home invasion in Oklahoma where Tyrone Woodfork brutally beat an elderly couple and even sexually assaulted & killed 85 year old Nancy Strait, probably in front of her husband of 65 years.  It really is heartbreaking:

They met each other on a blind date on Thanksgiving 1946, married a month later and went on to have six children, 18 grandchildren and about 50 great and great-great grandchildren. They had recently welcomed a great-great-great grandchild.

After that beautiful, long life together where they clearly had found true love, for it to end in sexual assault and death like that, it's just horrible.  Why is Obama not calling that family or speaking about this crime?  Is it less horrible than the Travyon Martin case?  And my guess is that Tyrone Woodfork probably had more hatred of white people than George Zimmerman had of black people, how else could he be so cruel to such a harmless elderly couple?  I'm sure some of you are thinking that this case is different because the victims are elderly.  Well, how about the 13 year old who was set on fire by two teenagers who said "you get what you deserve, white boy" while doing it?  Or how about the recent murder of a 21 year old Mississippi State University student in a dorm where the victim is white and the suspects African American? 

The fact is, while the recent coverage and statements like "blacks are under attack" will make you think that white on black crime is an epidemic, the opposite is actually true.  According to the National Crime Victimization Survey compiled by the Department of Justice, there were about 430,000 violent crimes in 2008 in which the victim was white and the perpetrator was black.  Conversely, there were only 91,000 crimes where the victim was black and the perpetrator was white.  That's almost a 5:1 ratio. 

But God forbid that the press rely on actual evidence or facts.

John Bolton Speaks Out Against Obama's Leaking of Sensitive Israeli Information

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Veteran Israeli Reporter: Obama Leaks are Betraying Israel

Veteran Israeli reporter Ron Ben-Yishai has a great piece on the Obama administration's recent leaks on the potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities:

Betraying an ally

To sum up, the American publications caused the following damage:

   * Iran now has a decent picture of what Israel's and America's intelligence communities know about Tehran's nuclear program and defense establishment, including its aerial defenses.

   * The Iranians now know about the indications that would be perceived by Washington and Jerusalem as a "nuclear breakthrough". Hence, Iran can do a better job of concealment.

   * The reports make it more difficult to utilize certain operational options. These options, even if not considered thus far, could have been used by the US in the future, should Iran not thwart them via diplomatic and military means.

Needless to say, this is not how one should be treating an ally, even if this is a relationship between a superpower and a satellite state. The targeted assassination campaign currently undertaken by the US government also sharply contradicts President Obama's declaration at the AIPAC Conference, whereby he and the US recognize Israel's sovereign right to defend itself by itself. One cannot utter these words and a moment later exposes Israel's vulnerabilities and possible strike routes to its enemies.

Indeed, there is a difference between legitimate persuasion efforts and practical steps to thwart Israeli plans and eliminate them.

For a total of seven years, I served as Yedioth Ahronoth's reporter in Washington, so I know very well that with a few exceptions, the US Administration knows how to prevent leaks to the media if it so wishes. This is the case even when dealing with former officials, and most certainly when dealing with current government officials. What we are seeing here is not a trickle of information, but rather, a powerful current, a true flood that leaves no doubt as to the existence of an orchestrated media campaign with clear aims.

There is another interesting aspect to this story from an American point of view: In 2002, when President George W. Bush sought to embark on war in Iraq, US intelligence agencies provided him with all the "evidence" that Saddam Hussein is developing large quantities of nuclear and chemical weapons. Following the war, when no traces of such weapons were discovered in Iraq, a Congress inquiry found that US intelligence officials were so eager to satisfy their president that they cut corners and relied on unsubstantiated information.

Given American media reports in recent days, one must wonder whether history is repeating itself. Could it be that the US intelligence community is providing President Obama with what he needs for political reasons – that is, information meant to curb an Israeli or American strike on Iran?

Read the whole thing here.

Obama Administration Leaks Top Secret Agreement Between Israel and Azerbaijan

It seems the Obama administration really knows no bounds in its attempt to sabotage Israel.  Just last month, they leaked the fact that Israel was using the MEK to assassinate Iranian scientists, now they are leaking the fact that Israel and Azerbaijan have a secret agreement for the use of Azeri bases before/after/during an attack on Iran:

"The Israelis have bought an airfield," a senior administration official told me in early February, "and the airfield is called Azerbaijan."


"We're watching what Iran does closely," one of the U.S. sources, an intelligence officer engaged in assessing the ramifications of a prospective Israeli attack confirmed. "But we're now watching what Israel is doing in Azerbaijan. And we're not happy about it."

You would almost think that the Obama administration is on the Iranian's side.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What is the Capital of Israel? The State Department Doesn't Know

Check out this rather hilarious and somewhat tragic exchange at the State Department press briefing today (h/t Weekly Standard).  Apparently the simple question "what is the capital of Israel" is just too difficult for the Obama administration to answer:

Q:  Yesterday there was a bit of a kerfuffle over an announcement that was made by the department about the travel of your boss. Is it the State Department's position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel?

MS. NULAND:  Well, you know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed.  The first media note was issued in error, without appropriate clearances.  We reissued the note to make clear that undersecretary, acting undersecretary for -- our -- Kathy Stevens will be travelling to Algiers, Doha, Amman, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it's a permanent-status issue.  It's got to be resolved through the negotiations between the parties.

Q:  Is it the view of the -- of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, notwithstanding the question about the embassy -- the location of the U.S. embassy?

MS. NULAND:  We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem.

Q:  Does that -- does that mean that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND:  Jerusalem is a permanent-status issue.  It's got to be resolved through negotiations.

Q:  That seems to suggest that you do not regard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.  Is that correct or not?

MS. NULAND:  I have just spoken to this issue --

Q:  (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND:  -- and I have nothing further to say on it.

Q:  You've spoken to the issue --

MS. NULAND:  Yeah.

Q:  -- but (haven't answered ?) the question.  And I think there's a lot of people out there who are interested in hearing a real answer and not saying -- and not trying to duck and say that this has got to be resolved by negotiations between the two sides.

MS. NULAND:  That is our --

Q:  What is the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND:  Our policy with regard to Jerusalem is that it has to be solved through negotiations.  That's all I have to say on this issue.

Q:  What is the capital of Israel according --

MS. NULAND:  Our embassy, as you know, is located in Tel Aviv.

Q:  So does that mean you regard Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel?

MS. NULAND:  The issue on Jerusalem has to be settled through negotiations.


Q: I just want to go back to -- I want to clarify something, perhaps give you an "out" on your Jerusalem answer.  Is it your -- is it your position that all of Jerusalem is a final-status issue, or do you think -- or is it just East Jerusalem?

MS. NULAND:  Matt, I don't have anything further to what I've said 17 times on that subject. OK? 

Q:  All right.  So hold on.  So I just want to make sure.  You're saying that all of Jerusalem, not just East Jerusalem, is a final-status issue.

MS. NULAND:  Matt, I don't have anything further on Jerusalem to what I've already said.

Key Romney Adviser Backs Obama's Iran Policy

More evidence that Romney will not be that different than Obama from Caroline Glick:

General Michael Hayden wrote an oped for CNN on Iran's nuclear program and the disparity between the US and Israeli assessments of the threat it poses.
Hayden served as the head of the NSA and the CIA under Bush 43. He now advises Mitt Romney.

In his oped, Hayden backs Obama's policy of waiting for incontrovertible evidence that Iran is actually building nuclear bombs before attacking and says it is in perfect alignment with Bush's policy. He also gives a strong defense of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. That document made the specious claim that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program in 2003. In so doing, the NIE rendered it impossible for Bush to take any military action to block Iran's race to the bomb in the waning days of his presidency.

Hayden also argues that Obama proved that he has what it takes to make the hard call when he ordered the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

The fact that this is the view of Romney's adviser has to make you wonder why all the pro-Israel American Jewish policy wonks have been going after every Republican candidate other than Romney with such intensity.

The Santorum Collapse

I just couldn't help but notice how poorly Santorum is now doing in some of the state polls for upcoming contests.  In the latest Marquette University poll, Santorum is now down 8 points against Romney in Wisconsin (primary is on April 3rd).  In the previous Marquette poll, conducted in mid-February, Santorum was up by a whopping 16 points!  A 24 point swing in a little over a month is nothing to sneeze at, though it is probably par for the course in this roller coaster of a GOP primary.

Even worse, he currently only has a 2 point lead in his home state of Pennsylvania (primary is on April 24th) according to the latest Franklin & Marshall poll.  This is a monumental collapse compared to the 29 point lead he had in the Franklin & Marshall poll taken in mid-February.  At this rate, he will lose his home state by the time the primary rolls around, and that would be a blow that he won't be able to recover from, despite the facts that all PA delegates are unbound anyway.  Home states represent the people who know you best and if you can't even carry your own party's primary there, well, that is certainly a sign of something.

The news is no better in North Carolina (primary is on May 8th), where the latest PPP poll shows Santorum and Romney currently tied.  This is a state where at one point Newt was leading by 37 points so it should be prime Santorum country, especially when facing a Massachusetts liberal like Romney.  Could Santorum still pull North Carolina out?  Sure, he isn't exactly behind in the polls, but you have to understand where the race will be once North Carolina rolls around.

On April 3rd, we will see results for Wisconsin, Maryland and DC.  It looks highly likely at this point that Santorum will lose all three (he isn't even on the ballot in DC).  Then on April 24th, results from a bevy of northeastern states, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania & Rhode Island, will be released.  None of these states are demographically friendly to Santorum and so he will likely lose at least four of them, if not all 5 (as the latest PA poll implies).  So, only after losing what will likely be 8 in a row will he stumble into Indiana, North Carolina and West Virginia, which will be friendlier territory.  After neighboring Illinois and Ohio went for Romney, Indiana will be tough to win for Santorum, though it could be relatively close.  West Virginia, which has become a more reliably conservative state over the years, is also a state where Santorum wasn't able to get a full delegate slate in all the districts (so even if he wins he likely loses).  If the race is in such a state on May 8th, how can Santorum even hope to win North Carolina?  Heck, it's very conceivable that Santorum might no even win another primary until May 22nd, when Arkansas and Kentucky Republicans vote.

How did the campaign of St. Rick get to such a point?  Santorum was marketed as a true conservative who was diligent and disciplined.  He essentially stole many of Newt's talking points and kept trotting out his family to show he has a strong moral character and no personal baggage.  But the truth of the matter is that his record is actually not that conservative on economic policy and in just the last week he flew off the handle at least thrice, throwing a tantrum on Neil Cavuto's show, implied he would rather go with Obama instead of Romney and even swore at a reporter.  On top of all that, he turns off a large percentage of the Republican electorate with his over the top moralizing that makes people fear the government inserting itself into their private lives.

Rick is done.  The sooner his supporters realize this, the better.  There is still time if they get behind Newt, who has a more conservative record, can unite all factions of the party, is a fantastic speaker and also seems to be a much more loyal Republican (he has repeatedly said that any Republican would be better than Barack Obama).  If Santorum supporters stick to rick, Romney seems to be on track for 1,144 and, if that happens, the hopes of a conservative emerging from a brokered convention disappear.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Key Highlights from the Supreme Court Obamacare Oral Arguments Today

The mockery that is the Obama administration's argument was exposed today for all to see.  Check out these key interactions:

JUSTICE ALITO: Do you think there is a market for burial services?

GENERAL VERRILLI: For burial services?


GENERAL VERRILLI: Yes, Justice Alito, I think there is.

JUSTICE ALITO: All right. Suppose that you and I walked around downtown Washington at lunch hour and we found a couple of healthy young people and we stopped them and we said: You know what you're doing? You are financing your burial services right now because eventually you're going to die, and somebody is going to have to pay for it, and if you don't have burial insurance and you haven't saved money for it, you're going to shift the cost to somebody else.

Isn't that a very artificial way of talking about what somebody is doing?


JUSTICE ALITO: And if that's true, why isn't it equally artificial to say that somebody who is doing absolutely nothing about health care is financing health care services.

GENERAL VERRILLI: It's -- I think it's completely different. The -- and the reason is that the burial example is not -- the difference is here you are regulating the method by which you are paying for something else -- health care -- and the insurance requirement I think -- I mean, the key thing here is my friends on the other side acknowledge that it is within the authority of Congress under Article I under the commerce power to impose guaranteed-issue and community-rating reforms, to end -- to impose a minimum coverage provision. Their argument is just that it has to occur at the point of sale, and -

JUSTICE ALITO: I don't see the difference. You can get burial insurance. You can get health insurance. Most people are going to need health care, almost everybody. Everybody is going to be buried or cremated at some point.

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, one big difference -

JUSTICE ALITO: What's the difference?

GENERAL VERRILLI: One big difference, Justice Alito, is the -- you don't have the cost shifting to other market participants. Here -

JUSTICE ALITO: Sure you do, because if you don't have money, then the State is going to pay for it or some -

GENERAL VERRILLI: But that's different.


JUSTICE ALITO: But isn't that really a small part of what the mandate is doing? You can correct me if these figures are wrong, but it appears to me that the CBO has estimated that the average premium for a single insurance policy in the non-group market would be roughly $5,800 in -- in 2016.

Respondents -- the economists who have supported the Respondents estimate that a young, healthy individual targeted by the mandate on average consumes about $854 in health services each year. So the mandate is forcing these people to provide a huge subsidy to the insurance companies for other purposes that the Act wishes to serve, but isn't -- if those figures are right, isn't it the case that what this mandate is really doing is not requiring the people who are subject to it to pay for the services that they are going to consume? It is requiring them to subsidize services that will be received by somebody else.


CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Well, but it's critical how you define the market. If I understand the law, the policies that you're requiring people to purchase involve -- must contain provision for maternity and newborn care, pediatric services, and substance use treatment. It seems to me that you cannot say that everybody is going to need substance use treatment -substance use treatment or pediatric services, and yet that is part of what you require them to purchase.

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, it's part of what the statute requires the insurers to offer. And I think the reason is because it's trying to define minimum essential coverage because the problem -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: But your theory is that there is a market in which everyone participates because everybody might need a certain range of health care services, and yet you're requiring people who are not -- never going to need pediatric or maternity services to participate in that market.


GENERAL VERRILLI: The -- with respect to what insurance has to cover, Your Honor, I think Congress is entitled the latitude of making the judgments of what the appropriate scope of coverage is. And the problem here in this market is that for -- you may think you're perfectly healthy and you may think that you're not -- that you're being forced to subsidize somebody else, but this is not a market in which you can say that there is a immutable class of healthy people who are being forced to subsidize the unhealthy. This is a market in which you may be healthy one day and you may be a very unhealthy participant in that market the next day, and that is a fundamental difference, and you're not going to know in which -

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: I think you're posing the question I was posing, which is that doesn't apply to a lot of what you're requiring people to purchase. Pediatric services, maternity services. You cannot say that everybody is going to participate in the substance use treatment market and yet you require people to purchase insurance coverage for that.

GENERAL VERRILLI: Congress has got --Congress is enacting economic regulation here. It has latitude to define essential -- the attributes of essential coverage. That doesn't -- that doesn't seem to me to implicate the question of whether Congress is engaging in economic regulation and solving an economic problem here, and that is what Congress is doing.

JUSTICE ALITO: Are you denying this? If you took the group of people who are subject to the mandate and you calculated the amount of health care services this whole group would consume and figured out the cost of an insurance policy to cover the services  that group would consume, the cost of that policy would be much, much less than the kind of policy that these people are now going to be required to purchase under the Affordable Care Act?

GENERAL VERRILLI: Well, while they are young and healthy, that would be true. But they are not going to be young and healthy forever. They are going to be on the other side of that actuarial equation at some point. And of course, you don't know which among that group is the person who's going to be hit by the bus or get the definitive diagnosis. And that -

JUSTICE ALITO: The point is -- no, you take into account that some people in that group are going to be hit by a bus, some people in that group are going to unexpectedly contract or be diagnosed with a disease that -- that is very expensive to treat. But if you take their costs and you calculate that, that's a lot less than the amount that they are going to be required to pay.

So that you can't just justify this on the basis of their trying to shift their costs off to other people, can you?

Obamacare Seems to Have Quantum Properties

Just like quantum physics postulates that all particles exhibit wave and particle properties at the same time, the oral arguments by the Obama team seem to mean that the individual mandate penalty is a tax and is not a tax simultaneously.  Even the New York Times picks up on this mockery of legal arguments:

In defending the law, the Justice Department has taken a legal position — that the health care act constitutes a tax — that contradicts the political stance taken by President Obama. To do that, it has relied on legal semantics to argue that the insurance mandate will be enforced through the tax code even though Congress took pains to label it a penalty and not a tax.

After losing that argument in a lower court, the government's lawyers switched positions to agree with the plaintiffs that the litigation was not blocked by the Anti-Injunction Act. But in its brief to the Supreme Court, the administration argued that while the penalty was not a tax that would fall under the Anti-Injunction Act, it should be viewed as a tax when the court considers on Tuesday whether the mandate is permitted under Congress's broad authority to levy taxes.

In other words, the Justice Department is essentially arguing that the penalty is not a tax, except when the government says it is one.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was quick to highlight the seeming contradiction during Monday's session. "Today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax," he told Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., the administration's lead advocate. "Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax. Has the court ever held that something that is a tax for purposes of the taxing power under the Constitution is not a tax under the Anti-Injunction Act?"

Mr. Verrilli responded that it had not. He said that the choice of labels mattered in considering whether the Anti-Injunction Act applied to the case but was irrelevant in determining whether Congress could justify the insurance mandate as an exercise of its taxing power.

At another point, Justice Stephen G. Breyer chided Mr. Verrilli for using the word tax in responding to questions from the bench. "Why do you keep saying tax?" the justice asked, leading Mr. Verrilli to amend his wording to "tax penalty."

The judge who first ruled on the case, Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., described the administration's position in a 2010 opinion as "an Alice-in-Wonderland tack." For good measure, he appended a footnote that quoted Alice in Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass": "The question is whether you can make words mean so many different things."

During oral arguments in a different lower-court challenge, Judge Henry Hudson of Federal District Court in Richmond, Va., was perhaps even more blunt about the rhetorical distance between Mr. Obama and his Justice Department. Mr. Obama, in a 2009 interview with ABC News, had said the insurance mandate is "absolutely not a tax increase."

"Let's characterize it correctly," Judge Hudson remarked. "They denied it was a tax. The president denied it. Was he trying to deceive the people?"

Monday, March 26, 2012

Did Obama Only Comment on the Trayvon Martin Killing Because He looked Like Him?

The big problem with a President of the United States commenting on local criminal issues is that one immediately wonders why he chose to comment on one incident and not another.  For instance, he commented on the killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin saying:

So I'm glad that not only is the Justice Department looking into it, I understand now that the governor of the state of Florida has formed a task force to investigate what's taking place.  I think all of us have to do some soul searching to figure out how does something like this happen.  And that means that examine the laws and the context for what happened, as well as the specifics of the incident.

But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin.  If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.  And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

Is the DOJ going to investigate EVERY crime now if the perpetrator and victim are of different races?   And is THE President going to comment on it?  How about the 13 year old who was set on fire by two teenagers who said "you get what you deserve, white boy" while doing it?  Or how about the recent murder of a 21 year old Mississippi State University student in a dorm where the victim is white and the suspects African American?  Why hasn't he commented on those?  It's a natural question.

You would have thought that Obama would have learned to keep his mouth shut about local matters after his "police acted stupidly" comments which backfired so badly, inevitably forcing the President and VP to have a "beer summit" to defuse the situation.

Obama Admits to the Russians He Will Be Free to Weaken US National Defense Once Re-elected

Obama caught on an open-mike in an exchange with the Russian President.  It sounds like he will do quite a bit to weaken or simply junk SDI in his second term.  Friends of Israel should also be worried about what else he will have more "flexibility" over:

President Obama: On all these issues, but particularly missile defense, this, this can be solved but it's important for him to give me space.

President Medvedev: Yeah, I understand. I understand your message about space. Space for you…

President Obama: This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.

President Medvedev: I understand. I will transmit this information to Vladimir.

Santorum is Losing It

For a guy who tried to campaign as Newt without the gaffes, he's really putting a long string together of some serious gaffes. The latest? Swearing at a reporter. The race is clearly getting to him. Watch the video:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Video: Santorum Would Rather Go with Obama than Romney

You have to wonder if Santorum took a stupid pill. Some of his endorsers seem to be rethinking their positions after this statement of his:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paul Ryan is Overrated and his Budget Plan Sucks

There. I said it.  I know there are a large number of people who worship him thanks to his youth, his charisma and his knowledge, but I also think people have been blowing so much smoke up his a** (myself included on occasion) that he thinks his plans are great even when they are obvious duds.  Like many people who have spent too much time inside the beltway, he seems to have lost sight of reality and possibly honesty. Do you know that the much vaunted conservative savior Paul Ryan only had an ACU score of 80 in 2011?  On 2 key votes he took the union side and then also "took some for the team" on votes to increase the debt ceiling and to pass huge spending bills.  He seems to be about as economically conservative as Rick Santorum (i.e. not as much as you would like). 

Then there are his so-called "groundbreaking" plans.  Take the much heralded Ryan-Wyden plan to reform Medicare.  It was scheduled to kick in in the year 2022 which even Ryan's own House Budget website admits is 2 years AFTER Medicare is scheduled to go bankrupt by the Congressional Budget Office (his new plan has it starting even later, in 2023).  Imagine if you or your business was going to go bankrupt in 5 days and the bank tells you that they will be happy to lend you money in 1 year. Only in a beyond the looking glass land that is Washington could anyone think this makes any sense.

Now, on to his current budget plan.  I know that the Club for Growth has issues with it, all of which are fair, but those aren't really my major issues with it.  My problem is with the tax reform segment, specifically his desire to get rid of "tax subsidies" though he declines to actually let anyone know which ones he would eliminate (though the Weekly Standard said that it would "virtually eliminate" all deductions).  Obviously, he knows that the deductions he is targeting are popular and just doesn't want to deal with it right now, leaving Americans in the dark about what his tax reform would actually mean for them (note he also doesn't say who would be paying what tax rate).  I guess we are supposed to pass this plan in order to find out what's in it? 

There are plenty of deductions that we can probably get rid of but the main ones that he is likely targeting are the ones for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and health insurance.  Let's go down the list and point out how getting rid of these could be quite destructive.  First, mortgage interest.  I've heard some people claim that this deduction is "welfare for the middle class".  Well, not exactly.  Welfare is someone getting a check thanks to money taken from someone else.  The mortgage interest tax deduction simply lets people keep more of the money they rightfully earned.  Also, I would argue that the mortgage interest deduction doesn't actually benefit most homeowners because when they bought their home, the price was inflated due to the existence of the tax deduction.  Sellers generally price items to the level that the market can bear, if there is a major tax deduction that makes a home more affordable, sellers know they can ask for more money than if there was no tax deduction.  That home that you paid $550k for, might have been $450k or less if you didn't have that deduction.  In other words, you can argue that when you bought your home you prepaid for your annual tax deduction. Getting rid of it will effectively be robbing the middle class of quite a bit of money.  Many will now not be able to afford their homes and probably won't be able to sell them either because their values will have crashed.  It would be one thing if people bought homes knowing that the deduction was temporary but didn't seem to care due to shortsightedness.  But the deduction has  been in place since the income tax first started a hundred years ago so it's been understood to be permanent and people have acted accordingly.  Some would argue that because tax rates would decrease, there shouildn't be too much of a negative impact.  But the problem nobody knows at what point the 25% tax rate is supposed to start.  I can see a scenario where quite a few middle class people see their effective level of taxation double thanks to Paul Ryan's plan.

And the problems don't just start there, there are also the economic impacts.  People could see tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars knocked off the value of their homes.  Between that and higher taxes (due to fewer deductions), you will see them spending far less.  Also, the hit to the value of real estate will also hit banks once again, banks that are still barely on their feet (remember Citibank recently failed their stress test).  Simply put, the Paul Ryan budget could put us on a road to another financial crisis.

Ryan is probably also going to want to eliminate the charitable contribution deduction.  Yes, those deductions often do go to the wealthy but so what?  Aren't they giving their money away to people who are helping others?  If you take away that incentive for people to give, you're going to see a lot less giving.  This will make the poor even more dependent on centralized government programs.  I would expect this from Obama, not from someone who is supposedly conservative.  And finally, there is the health insurance deduction, which really isn't a deduction at all.  We are getting benefits through work and have never had to pay taxes on those before as we aren't actually receiving any cash.  What Ryan is probably going to do is make us pay taxes for money we don't even see, taxes that would be inflated by the fact that our health insurance is so expensive due to government handouts to other people.  How the heck is that fair? 

What would be fair you ask?  What would be fair would be a proposal like the one that Newt put out:

I have proposed an alternative flat tax that people could fill out where you could either keep the current system — this is what they do in Hong Kong — . . . with all of its deductions and all its paperwork, or you'd have a single page: 'I earned this amount. I have this number of dependents. Here is 15 percent.' My goal is to shrink the government to fit the revenue, not to raise the revenue to catch up with the government.

The beauty of this plan is it actually gives you a choice (I know, choice, what a concept for government).  You can either go to a simple system or you can keep the complex system (and all the accountants and copies of Turbotax it requires) if you think it will be a net benefit to you.  It's a no lose situation for taxpayers.  The only loser would be government.  Now that's a plan that I could get behind!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Newt on Romney, the Etch a Sketch Candidate

(h/t legal insurrection)

Top Romney Adviser Admits Romney Won't Keep His Conservative Positions in the Fall

Can we not nominate Romney please?  Check out this exchange on CNN with Romney Communications Director Eric Fehrnstrom:
HOST: Is there a concern that Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.
Just great, as we thought, there just is no "there" there with Romney and he just says things to get elected.  This guy would be a disaster for the GOP, whether he wins or not, and I want nothing to do with him.

I'm Shocked the Savage Child Killer in Toulouse Turns Out to be a Radical Muslim. Okay, Not Really.

I thought it was amazing when just about all the press reports I read were saying that the killer of 3 small Jewish children and one adult in Toulouse was a neo-nazi. How would they have known so quickly given they didn't have a description of the killer? It just seemed like a politically correct story line in order to limit any backlash against muslims. What really made me doubt the story was when I read that the killer shot little Miriam Monsonego point blank in the head. Actually, that description doesn't do justice to his actions, here is what witnesses say he did:

He entered the school and grabbed Miriam Monsonego (8) as she was running. He grabbed her hair and fired at her body. As she bled out and slumped to the floor, he listed her head and fired two shots at her head from point blank range to make certain his Jewish victim would not survive.

And here is a picture of that poor little girl:

Other than radical muslims, who else these days hates Jews so much that they would shoot a sweet little blonde girl like that at point blank range? Remember the brutal Itamar massacre where radical islamists murdered a family including a 3 month old infant (who was stabbed to death)?

But I guess, in a way, the original press reports were correct. The real successors to the Nazis aren't white trash who do too much meth and pretend to be in the SS, but murderous radical islamists who want nothing more than the extermination of the Jews.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Newt on Santorum

When will Tea Partiers wake up and realize that they are betting on the wrong horse?  Here is part of what Newt posted on Redstate about Santorum (h/t Conservatives with Newt):

The leadership of the Rick Santorum Republicans proved disastrous:

  • The Rick Santorum Republicans never passed a single balanced budget, after inheriting balanced budgets and record surpluses. They racked up $1.7 trillion in deficits and increased the average number of earmarks by almost 500 percent. The Senator even voted for the Bridge to Nowhere.
  • The Rick Santorum Republicans increased the national debt by 12 percent and voted to raise the debt ceiling five times to accommodate it—even while dealing with a president of their own party.
  • The Senator voted with Democrats and Big Labor to defeat the National Right to Work Act of 1995. He justifies this vote saying he was representing Pennsylvania where forced unionization is the law but today, PA Senator Toomey is cosponsoring nearly identical legislation.
  • The Senator voted with Democrats and Big Labor — repeatedly — to protect Davis-Bacon legislation, an old law on the books that requires the federal government to pay more to its contractors. He was so wedded to big labor that he even voted against waiving Davis-Bacon in times of emergency. By voting to protect Davis-Bacon, the Senator cost taxpayers many millions in higher taxes, deficits, and national debt.
  • The Senator sponsored the "Santorum Amendment" to raise the Minimum Wage 21.4%. He supported Ted Kennedy's proposed hike in the Minimum Wage. And, in a 2006 campaign commercial, he bragged about his support for a higher Minimum Wage.
  • The Rick Santorum Republicans abandoned their principles, resulting in the worst electoral defeat for Republicans since Watergate and the loss of GOP Congressional majorities in both the House and Senate. This left Congress in the hands of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. And in destroying the Republican brand of balanced budgets and spending control, the Rick Santorum Republican failure gave us Barack Obama in 2008.

This is not a record of leadership to be proud of, and in 2006 it resulted in a catastrophic 18-point defeat. I fear it would do so again in the fall of 2012 if he were the nominee.

Unlike Senator Santorum, I did not go to Washington seeing politics as a "team sport." Instead, I set out to change the game, and was willing to fight the forces of the establishment within the Republican Party to do so. The result was the first GOP majority in 40 years and the largest increase in pro-life votes in House of Representatives history. When I was Speaker, we balanced the budget for the first time since the 1920s — and it stayed balanced for four straight years. We reformed welfare, lifting millions of Americans from poverty. We passed the biggest capital gains tax cut in history, helping create 11 million jobs. And we did it all while paying down the national debt by $400 billion.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Santorum: "To Our Credit" the GOP is no longer the party of Small Government

Tea Partiers need to wake up:

Is Iran Targeting Jewish Children?

A horrifying report from France:

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 30, was on his way to drop off his kids at the Gan Rachi kindergarten, adjacent to the Ozar Hatorah school where he teaches, when he was gunned down along with his two sons Gavriel and Aryeh, 6 and 3 years old. Miriam Monstango, 8, the daughter of the head of Otzer Hatorah, was shot as well and died of her wounds shortly after.

I just have to wonder if this was perpetrated by Iran and its minions.  Nothing is beneath them.  Also, I find it curious that there is no description of the shooter in any of the news reports even though people say he did get off his motorcycle/scooter before firing (it's not like everything happened in a flash).  My guess is that if he looked ethnically French, that would have been all over the reports.  Though I could be wrong.  Either way, let's pray that the injured survivors recover and that anyone associated with perpetrating this horrific crime are skinned alive (that's the worried parent in me talking).

Friday, March 16, 2012

Must See Video by Paul Ryan on Why We Must Fix Our Budget

The US is Preparing for War with Iran

Here is an interesting announcement from the Chief of Naval Operations (h/t Max Boot):

Four more minesweepers and four more minesweeping helicopters are to be sent to the Arabian Gulf, the U.S. Navy's top officer said March 15, a move which will increase the number of mine countermeasure forces available to keep open the sea lanes around the Strait of Hormuz should Iran choose to mine that critical waterway.

"We are moving four more minesweepers to the region, making eight," Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations (CNO), told the U.S. Senate Armed Services committee during a Navy budget hearing. "We want to improve our underwater minehunting capability."

Having 8 minesweepers in one place may not seem like much but apparently we only have a total of 14 in operation, so we would have more in the Persian Gulf than the rest of the world combined!  Maybe we can unmothball some that were built in the 1950's but regardless, it seems like something is coming.  Given this and the report that the Israeli cabinet might be supporting a strike on Iran without US permission, things are looking serious.

The Case for Newt Staying in the Race and Potentially Winning

I've been thinking a lot about this and I think there is a strong case for Newt to stay in the race.  By staying in, he is probably hurting Romney, he is bringing important issues to the fore that only he can talk about in an educated and convincing fashion and, who knows, he could win (though it is very much a longshot). 

Let's start with the first argument. So far, the only argument you can make for Newt to get out is that he is "splitting the conservative vote" and helping Romney get the nomination.  But I'm really starting to think that the opposite may in fact be true and he is hurting Romney's campaign for 1,144 delegates by staying in (Scott Conroy's great piece helped convince me of this).  When you first think about it, the "vote splitting" argument does make sense but it relies on a premise which is probably invalid, it assumes that a candidate's delegates are only his and there will be no alliances in the future where two camps get together.  What has become clear is that at some point Newt and Santorum will have to join forces in order to stop Romney.  So any delegates that Newt is taking from Santorum today, will likely return to Santorum later (assuming he continues to be the leading "not-Romney", you can make the same logical argument for Santorum staying in if Newt gets the lead again).  And on top of those, Santorum will be getting Newt delegates that would otherwise go to Romney or Paul if Newt is not in the race.  There are quite a few economic conservatives who are really turned off by Santorum's whiny preachiness and would rather go with someone not so extreme on social issues.  Estimates are that a full 27% of Newt voters would go to Romney and another 16% will go to Paul.  And if you assume that Ron Paul will inevitably team up with Romney at the convention (which is probably a fair assumption given their obvious collusion at the debates) that means that a full 43% of Newt voters might end up supporting Romney's delegate count.  In other words, with Newt out, Santorum's vote count will only include those that prefer Santorum to the other candidates.  With Newt in, assuming an ultimate combination, Santorum's vote count will still include those that prefer him, as well as some people who would have otherwise gone to Romney and Paul.  This will help keep Romney from locking in the nomination with 1,144 delegates and also increase the chances that Santorum overtakes Romney's total delegate count, which would be important even if Santorum is short of 1,144.

Of course, this argument doesn't really take into account the fact that many states have 15% thresholds and so if Newt doesn't get higher than that in those states he actually gets zero delegates and all those Santorum votes will eventually be lost, hurting the not-Romney conservative campaign.  Also, there is nothing that binds delegates to deals made at the convention.  Just because Newt himself has called on his delegates to go with Santorum doesn't mean they actually have to go to Santorum.  They can do whatever they want.  Hopefully, the Newt campaign has picked people who are loyal enough that they will at least give him the benefit of the doubt.  With that in mind, I still think the only argument for Newt to get out is probably not correct and net/net, he will be hurting Romney when all the votes are counted.

The second argument is that, among the candidates, only Newt seems to be able to latch on to the important issues of the day that ordinary Americans care about and speak about them in an educated and convincing manner.  While Santorum is talking about pornography and contraception and Romney is stuttering his way through another explanation of Romneycare, Newt is talking about $2.50 gas.  He even was able to force Obama to respond, essentially forcing Obama to debate when he clearly didn't want  to.  Not bad for the #3 candidate in a primary race huh?  Having Newt out there constantly hammering away at the important issues and pointing out the flaws in the administration's logic is an invaluable service and helps the conservatives whether or not he is the eventual nominee.

The final argument is simple, Newt can still win.  Sure, the chances are miniscule and are not something I would bet on.  But I am from Massachusetts originally and the chances that Doug Flutie completed that Hail Mary pass to beat Miami were slim too.  Here is what really needs to happen for Newt to win:

1.  There HAS to be a brokered convention.  Newt understands this already so I'm not saying anything new here, but I think there needs to be a change in strategy among Newt supporters.  Recently, target #1 has been Santorum for obvious reasons, he is stealing voters who would otherwise go for Newt.  But by attacking Santorum relentlessly, Newt supporters are actually helping Romney's vote totals as some Santorum supporters are turing to Mittens (who also happens to be attacking Santorum).  This reduces the chances of Newt ever becoming the nominee since it brings Romney closer to getting to 1,144 and if we don't get a brokered convention, Newt is through.  Done.  Newt is sacked and there will be no hail mary pass.  Newt supporters should keep picking away at Santorum, as the more votes for Newt the better, but the main focus of our ire should be Romney.  It just doesn't do us any good if we destroy Santorum and Romney coasts to the nomination.

2.  Newt needs to attract independent support.  I'm sure you're thinking that he can worry about independents later, that he first needs to get the Republican nomination.  I disagree.  I think attracting independents will help him get the nomination whether or not they vote in the actual primaries.  First, many people are voting for Romney because he is viewed as most "electable" which basically just means he is most attractive to independent voters.  In the Ohio exit polls, 42% of voters said that electability was the most important candidate quality and 52% of those voters went for Romney.  If Newt can steal some of this vote, this could do wonders for him and would help steal delegates from Romney, increasing the chances of a brokered convention.  Which brings me to my next point, being more attractive to independent voters will also help Newt win a brokered convention scenario.  Let's say the convention is deadlocked between Romney and Santorum, what would be the incentive for them to suddenly choose Newt?  He needs to be the most electable candidate.  If he continues to poll third in the head to head polls vs. Obama, he has zero chance.  I realize polls can be wrong but people listen to them and there is no incentive for them to choose the person the polls say is the "worst" candidate.  There will be about 10 weeks between the convention and election day, the bigger the deficit the greater the chance that the GOP candidate loses. 

Newt is great at throwing red meat to conservative voters but what he needs to do now is find something to attract the independents.  Gasoline sure helps as everyone understands that issue.  Perhaps also differentiating himself with Santorum on social issues would work, obviously that isn't very hard. He should probably say stuff like "I am pro-life and believe marriage should be between a man and a woman but I think otherwise, the government should stay out of the bedroom.  For as we know, government usually doesn't stop where you want them to stop.  If you get them into your bedroom they also start going after your wallet".  Something like that anyway.  A pro-life libertarian argument could probably work wonders and attract quite a bit of support.  If Newt comes across as the most reasonable, the most experienced and the most electable candidate, he could still win this.

3.  Newt just needs to keep doing what he is doing in terms of his campaign events, focusing on the issues and making some of the best speeches of this cycle.  He can't let attacks from any quarter get him off his game like Romney was able to do in Florida.  In 1920, Warren G. Harding came in 6th in the first round of balloting with 6.7% of the delegates.  It wasn't until the 7th round of balloting that he even broke through 10% of the delegates (he got 10.7% in that round).  Eventually, people got really tired of the deadlock and decided on Harding as a compromise candidate, who won in the 10th round of voting and the general election.  Now it is hard to be a compromise candidate if you've pissed off the other camps.  So Newt just needs to continue to stay positive and try to ruffle as few feathers as possible.  I know that is difficult in this race, which has become very personal, but that could be the key to him winning.

Here's to hoping.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Barbarella in Jackboots

I just read the piece from Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem (h/t Legal Insurrection for pointing it out) in which they, unbelievably, called for the FCC to silence Rush Limbaugh.  His crime?  Offending them and acting in a way that was not in the "public interest".  Take a gander:

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh's radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh's show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn't carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website:

This isn't political. While we disagree with Limbaugh's politics, what's at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he's really "doing humor" or "entertainment." He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people's airways.

Wait a second, spectrum is a government resource?  Since when?  Did they invent it?  Nope.  So how is it their's?  I can understand that it is a public resource which the government currently regulates but calling it a government resource is a bit much.  After all, is air a government resource?  If it is not in the "public interest" to give Republicans air, can it be denied them by bureaucrats?  Nope.

Also, shouldn't the public decide whether something is in their interest to hear?  I believe they do so by tuning in or tuning out and indications are that Rush Limbaugh's ratings are probably up in this crisis.  According to Michael Harrison, who publishes the leading industry trade journal "the irony is that he probably right now has the biggest audience he's had in years, and the double irony of all this is sponsors that are fleeing, they're missing out on the best advertising buy in radio".

Of, I forgot, the public isn't smart enough to know what is in their best interests, they need dried up old socialist hags from the 1960's to tell them what to do (rather ironic as they were rebelling against societal repression at the time).  The least they could have done was come up with some real "toxic hate-inciting speech" to give as examples because the ones they give don't seem to incite much hatred.  Offensive sure, but hate inciting?:

-- Female Cabinet members are "Sex-retaries."

-- "The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies."

-- The National Organization for Women is "a bunch of whores to liberalism."

-- [Said to an African-American female caller]: "Take that bone out of your nose and call me back."

Who hates sexretaries?  If given a choice, I think at least 90% of men would probably love to have one.  The two african-american statements are clearly just jokes.  Yes, uber offensive but he is not saying telling anyone to hate anybody.  The NOW quote is a metaphor and is obviously not meant to be taken literally.  He isn't telling anyone to hurt anyone he's just making comments.  Since when should that be banned from the airwaves?  I hope none of these women ever watched the Morton Downey Jr. show in the 1980's, then their panties would really have been in a bunch.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Struggling with Santorum

Newt is done.  There are no if's and's or but's about it.  His "Southern Strategy" became a "Deep South Strategy" after Super Tuesday and now he doesn't seem to have a strategy to win at all.  If someone has any ideas that are both logical and doable and don't include some sort of deus ex machina resolution to the primary race, I'd love to hear them (Politijim has some ideas but I'm not sure they are enough to get him over the top).  I am still thoroughly convinced that Newt is the best man for the job, by far.  He is the smartest, the most inspiring and hasthe best experience to get us through these difficult times.  Unfortunately, most conservatives seem to be enamored with Rick Santorum, who has very wisely decided to market himself as Newt without the personal baggage.  He has gone so far as to actually steal lines from Newt's speeches, if you watched the Alabama Presidential Forum, you'll know what I mean.

And at this point, I WANT to like Rick Santorum, to endorse him and be done with it.  He clearly is the only conservative in the race who can even have a chance of over-taking Romney, especially if Newt endorses him and gets his delegates to vote for Santorum (a scenario I didn't think about in my previous piece on the possibility of a brokered convention, which focused on each candidate's individual chances without combinations).  A Newt/Santorum alliance would only need to outperform Romney by about 8% (in both hard bound and total delegates) to be officially ahead of Romney at the convention and all bets could be off if that happens.  Even the establishment will think twice before screwing a candidate who is so popular with the grassroots who also came in at #1 to the convention.  Though I have no doubt they will try anyway (though there is a difference between sort of trying and pulling out all the stops). 

Unfortunately, I'm just not there yet.  Yes, Santorum is a conservative, is very supportive of Israel and generally conservative on the important issues of the day, like repealing Obamacare and getting our national finances in order.  Unfortunately, he is a George W. Bush compassionate conservative with very major holes in his record.  Just compare his ACU ratings from 1991-1994 with Newt's.  I picked those years because that was when they both overlapped in the House of Representatives and therefore are being judged on the exact same versions of the exact same bills.  In 1991, Newt scored 100% while Santorum only scored 80%.  And those 20% of votes where he didn't vote conservative were actually quite important.  He voted against caps in discretionary spending, SDI funding, against allowing employers to hire permanent replacements for striking workers and for NEA funding.  In 1992, Newt against scored a perfect 100% and Santorum scored 83%.  Santorum voted against school choice and a spending freeze but voted for NEA funding.  In 1993, Newt scored 96% and Santorum scored an abysmal 70%.  Newt's only indiscretion was that he voted against a bill which would have required the military to ask new recruits if they were gay.  Santorum once again voted against SDI, school choice, employer rights to hire replacements and quite a few more (7 key bills in all).  In 1994, Newt was once again a perfect 100% and Santorum scored 81%.  He voted against the Trident II missile and against NEA termination, but for halting development in the deserts of California (I guess both wetlands and very very drylands need to be "saved"). 

That is all not very reassuring.  Of course, though, he did improve over time and in his last year in the Senate he did have an ACU rating of 96% and a lifetime rating of 88%.  Also, if you look at Newt's record in his first year, it wasn't perfect either.  Yes, he had a score of 89 but he voted for the Department of Education and also something called the Energy Mobilization Board, which would have allowed a panel of political appointees to overrule business decisions to "mobilize" the energy sector.  Long story short (I know, too late), Santorum seems to have become more conservative and currently is using rhetoric indistinguishable from Newt's but I'm just not sure if, once in office, he won't run things as a moderate, as many Republicans do once elected to higher office.

I am also struggling with Santorum's social views.  Look, I'm pro-life but otherwise I'm a live and let live kind of guy who thinks people should be free to do what they like in the privacy of their own home if it is not infringing on someone else's rights.  He is not that kind of guy at all.  He has a very paternalistic view of society which kind of scares me.  As President, he will speak out and try to curtail things like gambling, porn and contraception which I don't think is the business of government.  The only reason I might let this category slide is because I really don't think as President he will have much power to do much in the social sphere, which is a good thing.

Basically, I'm just not sure if I vote for Santorum it will actually be a vote for him as opposed to a vote against Romney and then against Obama.  I've done that before, quite a few times actually, and I'm sick of just voting for the lesser of two evils.  I want to vote for the good and I'm not sure yet if Santorum is good enough.  Yet.  Though given how much I hate Romney (who has even flip flopped on the subject of Catfish) I might just bite the bullet once again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Total Gross Cost for Obamacare Now $1.759 TRILLION from 2013-2022

Take a look at the CBO's recent estimates for Obamacare costs.  The total cost estimate of Obamacare's coverage provisions is now $1.759 Trillion over 10 years, which obviously has to be paid for somehow.  This is a great reminder of how disastrous Obamacare is from a fiscal perspective.  I just don't see how you could possibly find the money to actually cover all of that spending.  Also, how does it make sense to implement such a monstrosity when our budget is bad enough as it is.  As Margaret Thatcher said "Socialist governments traditionally do make a financial mess. They [socialists] always run out of other people's money. It's quite a characteristic of them".  Looks like that day is approaching.

Koch Brothers v. Cato

There seems to be quite a kerfuffle going on right now between the Koch Brothers, who helped found the Cato Institute, and the current management of the Institute.  It's over a shareholder agreement signed at the founding of Cato and it boils down the the Koch Brothers arguing that they have a legal right to control the Institute and the current management opposing that move (you can get more detail here, here and a recent update here).  I just thought I'd comment since I was a former employee of the Cato Institute and was also a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow (I received a stipend and an apartment for a summer during college so I could intern at the National Taxpayers Union, paid for by the Koch Foundation).  Essentially, I've had ties to both camps.

So what do I think?  I think that if the interpretation of the shareholder agreement that the Koch's have is correct then they should be able to control the Cato Institute.  A contract is a contract.  I know that Cato's President, Bob Levy (who is the nicest guy you'll ever meet) has opposed the Koch move on three main grounds, first, that the Koch interpretation is incorrect, second, that a Koch takeover would change the character of the institute, and third that the shareholder agreement is outdated, as the Koch's are no longer large donors and people who are deserve a voice in how the Institute is run.  But really only the first one can even be partly legitimate.  This is about property rights pure and simple, the character of the Institute and age of the original agreement are really extraneous arguments that make me think that Cato isn't terribly confident in their legal defense.  Not only are they extraneous, I think the arguments are also just plain wrong.

First, the character of Cato issue.  Based on my summer hanging out with other Koch fellows, it's pretty clear that the Koch's support quite a few think tanks, all of which support limited government.  They might have different focuses, but their is one overriding theme, big government does more harm than good to everything from personal liberty to the economy.  So, I really don't think Cato is really going to change that much.  Sure, maybe on some issues they won't be completely down the line Libertarian Party platform, but I don't see why it needs to be.  My guesstimate is that 90% of libertarians aren't part of the party because it is so doctrinaire, not willing to make any compromise even if it moves things in the right direction (like Ron Paul's votes against every free trade agreement brought before him because they entail too much government).  Maybe it wouldn't hurt for Cato to be a little more mainstream, perhaps it would help them actually achieve something.  While working there it didn't take long for me to conclude that the work Cato was doing wasn't really achieving anything.  They would come out with these great policy papers and have them wonderful public forums and very few of their proposals would get anywhere.  Heck, for the last 11 years I would say that the Institute has been a complete failure.  With Republicans in charge of both the White House and Congress for much of the last decade you would think Cato's influence would have been at a peak, as Republicans are much more sympathetic to Cato than Democrats, instead you saw the opposite.  More government, more spending and a more active foreign policy (though not everyone was an overgrown hippie at Cato, I remember one time a few of us did go to a bar to have a beer, a burger and watch Iraq being bombed) were par for the course and where was Cato? Still writing policy papers that some people may have read but nobody put into practice.

Second, there is the claim that the shareholder agreement is outdated.  The Constitution is about 7 times older than that agreement, is that outdated too?  If they had wanted a time limit for the agreement they should have put a time limit in there when they wrote it.  Otherwise, if they don't like the way Cato is headed they should do what those of us who work in the private sector do.  Go somewhere else.  If so many donors and analysts are upset with the possibility of a Koch takeover, why don't they just start another institute?  Sure it will be a lot of work and they will have to create a new brand but so what?   Welcome to real life.  Maybe doing all of that will actually reinvigorate the place and make it relevant. 

Newt at the Alabama GOP Presidential Forum

Hopefully last night was enough to put Newt over the top. Come on, Mississippi and Alabama, just win a couple for the Nipper:

(h/t The Right Scoop)

Monday, March 12, 2012

While We Are All Paying for Sandra Fluke to Have Sex, Maybe We Should Pay for These Too

Allysia Finley has a nice piece in the Wall Street Journal today about the other benefits that people could argue should be mandated by the government along with contraception:

Fitness club memberships. Most doctors agree that exercising is one of the best ways to prevent disease. However, gym memberships can run between $240 and $1,800 per year. Such high prices force us to choose between exercising and buying groceries. While we could walk or jog outside, many of us prefer not to. Therefore, employers should be required to pay for workers' gym memberships. Doing so might even reduce employers' health costs, which is why many companies already subsidize memberships. Those that don't are limiting our freedom to exercise.

Massages. Stress raises the risk of heart disease, obesity, depression and a host of other maladies. About one half of Americans say they're stressed, and studies show that health costs for stressed-out workers are nearly 50% higher than those for their chilled-out counterparts. According to the Mayo Clinic, a great way to reduce stress is to get a massage. However, since few of us can afford massages, it is imperative that employers be required to cover weekly massage treatments or hire in-office masseuses. Think of the millions of new jobs this mandate will create in the therapeutic field, too.

Yoga classes. Like exercise and massage, yoga reduces stress and can relieve back pain, osteoarthritis and even menopausal symptoms. Yoga is also one of the best exercises for pregnant women since stress raises the risk of birth defects, which in turn increase health costs. While we could practice yoga with the aid of a DVD or Web video, classes offer social benefits that enhance our psychological well-being.

Coffee. Studies show that coffee can ward off depression, Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes and sleepiness—which makes it one of the most powerful preventive treatments. Workers who drink java are also more productive and pleasant. While many offices have coffee makers, some employers—most notably those affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—continue to deny workers this essential benefit. All employers should have to provide workers with freshly brewed coffee. Oh, and workers must also be able to choose the kind of coffee regardless of the price.

Republicans might argue that requiring Mormon charities to serve coffee is a violation of "religious liberty" since the Mormon church's doctrine proscribes coffee, but this argument is a red herring. Leading medical experts recommend drinking coffee. Moreover, 99% of adults have drunk coffee at one point in their lives (including most Mormons).

Salad bar. Studies also show that eating a lot of salad helps people maintain a healthy weight, which is key to preventing diabetes, heart disease and hypertension. Admittedly, mandating that employers include a free salad bar in their cafeterias would primarily benefit healthy eaters (women like myself) and raise prices for workers who subsist on junk (most men). However, such a mandate is necessary to expand our access to healthy food. Nanny-state conservatives who oppose this mandate merely want to ban salad and control what we eat.

The point is that once you start down the road of "well, of course, _____ should be free" it really is hard to stop.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What a Poorly Worded Headline: "Egypt’s parliament to vote on stopping US aid"

As if Egypt was sending aid to the US. No, that country's Islamist parliament is voting on cutting off their nose to spite their face, yup, ending US aid to itself. And it's not as if their economy was booming or something and they didn't need the money, in fact, it is just the opposite.

I do realize the vote is mostly symbolic, but I have to ask, why are we sending them aid again? It doesn't seem to be gaining us any goodwill, in fact it seems to be doing the opposite.

Boy, getting rid of Mubarak was such a brilliant move. Thanks Obama.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Obama's Only Negative Is That There Are Too Many Positives?

Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim made a fool of himself last night on Piers Morgan when talking about the documentary of Obama he just made (h/t Weekly Standard):

Piers Morgan: "Most documentary makers balance these movies with the negative as well as the positive. What are the negatives in your movie about Barack Obama?

Davis Guggenheim: "Well, I mean the negative for me was, there were too many accomplishments. I had 17 minutes to put them all in there."

Piers Morgan: "Oh, come off it! You can't say that with a straight face. Come on."

Davis Guggenheim: "I'm looking at you right now with a straight face."

Piers Morgan: "The only negativity about Barack Obama is there are too many positives?"

Davis Guggenheim: "That was the negative -- excuse me, that was the negative for me."

Piers Morgan: "Oh."


Piers Morgan: "But where do you find fault in him, personally?"

Davis Guggenheim: "I -- you know, I don't. I don't, frankly."

Piers Morgan: "He's a perfect human being?"

Davis Guggenheim: "Well, no. but I'm really quite in awe of him, as a leader, and the choices he's made."

Piers Morgan: "I mean, I'm only asking because you are a well-known documentary maker, and this would be the first movie, I guess, you've made where it's all completely positive. And even you personally don't see any negative at all in the guy. Do you think you were the right guy to make this? I mean, are you dispassionate enough to make a Barack Obama video?"

Davis Guggenheim: "But, Piers, you haven't seen the movie. You've only seen the trailer."

Piers Morgan: "Well, I've asked you to list all the negatives and you said the only negative was you couldn't put enough positives in."

Davis Guggenheim: "Well, that's true. That's true."

Here is the video:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Don't Pin Your Hopes On A Brokered Convention Saving the Day

I've noticed a lot of talk and a lot of hope being pinned on a brokered convention as possibly our last best hope to keep Romney from being nominated.  My advice:  don't bet on it.  Oh sure, Romney might very well be denied enough delegates to ensure the nomination before the convention (all it probably takes is Newt or Santorum dropping out and endorsing the other) but I fail to see the possibility of him not being nominated in Tampa in such a scenario. 

Based on both his hard bound and total delegate lead, it seems very likely that he will remain the leader going into the convention whether or not he gets to the magic number of 1144 delegates.  For those of you who haven't sunk into the weeds (there actually is a nice short and sweet primer here), hard bound delegates are the delegates that are legally bound to vote for you at the convention, at least on the first ballot.  For those that aren't hard bound, as a candidate you can never be sure you are going to get their vote.  For example, CNN is currently counting 7 delegates for Romney, Paul and Santorum because of the results of the Iowa caucus and are including them in their total delegate count (note that other sites will sometimes have different totals).  But the actual delegate allocation doesn't even exist yet.  What happens in Iowa is that the caucuses pick delegates for county conventions who then pick delegates for congressional district conventions who then pick delegates for the state convention, which is set for June 16th.  So we won't even know what the Iowa delegation will look like for another 3 months and it wouldn't surprise me if either Romney, Paul or Santorum end up with many more or fewer delegates than they were initially supposed to.

Anyway, back to my point, if you calculate the number of delegates that either Newt or Santorum would need from now on just to catch up with Romney you will see how difficult it would be.  On a hard bound basis, I calculate that there are 1,206 delegates to be chosen and Romney currently has a lead of 219 delegates over Newt and 232 over Santorum (he is behind Newt because of his wins in caucuses that don't have hard bound delegates).  So from here on out, Newt would have to beat Romney by over 18 points and Santorum needs to beat Romney by over 19 points just to catch up with him (to get the nomination each would actually have to get over 87% of the hard bound delegates from now on).  I don't really see either beating Romney 60-40, especially when you have states like New York coming up, a big state where Romney is currently leading by 15 points.  On a total delegate basis the numbers get a smidge easier, at least for Santorum, who needs to beat Romney by 16 points to catch him (Newt needs to beat him by 20 points).  So as you can see, barring an epic meltdown, it seems very likely that, even if he is not the official nominee, Romney will at least be the leader and possibly be very close to the magic number of 1144.

At that point, the brokers at the convention will have to decide one of two things, twist enough arms and make enough deals to get Romney over the top or go with someone who isn't running (I don't think the brokers will ever favor a Newt or a Santorum at the convention, especially if they are behind Romney in the delegate totals).  And to get Romney over the top might not even be very hard at all.  First, there will be the Ron Paul delegates.  I actually agree that there is something fishy going on between Romney and Paul.  It probably won't take much additional cajoling to make Paul delegates suddenly vote for Romney.  Second, all those unpledged delegates will be linked to the establishment in one way or another, otherwise they probably wouldn't be delegates in the first place.  And if the establishment can do anything is make promises and collect on favors.  And given the unattractiveness of the alternative, they will be promising a lot. 

Now, to the alternative.  What about picking some consensus candidate who is not Romney and running him under the GOP banner?  There are two major problems with that.  First, the calendar.  The GOP convention is supposed to start on August 27th, just 10 weeks before election day on November 6th.  That is 10 weeks to fundraise for the campaign and introduce the candidate to America.  That will make first impressions and first interviews that much more important and unfortunately people's first impressions will be of backroom deals and questions of fairness from the press.  Instead of the economy or Obamacare or Iran being the main issue, it's going to be "what exactly was the process whereas you were selected to be the GOP nominee despite doing zero campaigning over the last year and a half and having received zero actual votes from GOP voters".  You can see it now can't you?  It would be a public relations disaster.  And let's not forget how pissed off all the Newt, Santorum, Romney and Paul people will be that after all their hard work, a usurper, who had zero vetting and participated in zero debates, got the nod.  10 weeks might not be enough for their wounds to heal and vote for the nominee.

The second major problem is that there isn't a wonderful, magical Republican who can come in, unite the establishment and the Tea Party (as well as economic, social and foreign policy conservatives), be credible with the media and with enough national exposure already to hit the ground running.  They just don't exist.  Sarah Palin?  No way the establishment will go for that.  They hate her as much, or even more, than they hate Newt.  The two of them make the establishment batsh*t crazy, which is why we love them but unfortunately, that doesn't lead to a nod at a brokered convention.  Jeb Bush?  I think a good number of the party will bolt on having another Bush carry the GOP banner.  It just stinks of elitism and dynasticism.  Like we are some banana republic or hereditary monarchy.  Paul Ryan?  While eloquent and with national exposure, he is also just a Congressman with zero administrative or foreign policy experience, who has had some questionable votes in the past which will upset many in the Tea Party.  He voted for both TARP and the auto bailouts for heaven's sake.  Chris Christie?  Please.  He is pretty much a guy who thinks like Mitt Romney but pretends to be a Newt Gingrich.  He is very questionable on global warming, abortion and he has raised fees.  Plus, he has only been Governor for a total of 2 years at this point.  Mitch Daniels?  While economically conservative, there is a lot of question as to what he actually thinks about social issues and foreign policy issues (he wants a social "truce" and might be a Dick Lugar foreign policy Republican).  I do realize that pretty much all of these candidates would be better than Romney, but would the brokers at the convention think that they will be a better candidate than Romney given that they are unvetted, have zero dollars in their _____ for President fund and all have their own flaws that would have to be papered over real quick?  I don't think so.

Now I am not saying you should give up.  Personally, I would still rather see a brokered convention than a Romney walk to the nomination simply because at least there would be a chance, albeit minuscule, of something good happening.  I just won't get my hopes up.