Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rand Paul Highlights His Spending Cut Ideas on John Stossel's Show

Another Reporter Comes Out with Threats from the White House

This time Ron Fournier at the National Journal:

I had angered the White House, particularly a senior White House official who I am unable to identify because I promised the person anonymity. Going back to my first political beat, covering Bill Clinton's administration in Arkansas and later in Washington, I've had a practice that is fairly common in journalism: A handful of sources I deal with regularly are granted blanket anonymity. Any time we communicate, they know I am prepared to report the information at will (matters of fact, not spin or opinion) and that I will not attribute it to them.

This is an important way to build a transparent and productive relationship between reporters and the people they cover. Nothing chills a conversation faster than saying, "I'm quoting you on this."


As editor-in-chief of National Journal, I received several e-mails and telephone calls from this White House official filled with vulgarity, abusive language, and virtually the same phrase that Woodward called a veiled threat. "You will regret staking out that claim," The Washington Post reporter was told.

Once I moved back to daily reporting this year, the badgering intensified. I wrote Saturday night, asking the official to stop e-mailing me. The official wrote, challenging Woodward and my tweet. "Get off your high horse and assess the facts, Ron," the official wrote.

I wrote back:

"I asked you to stop e-mailing me. All future e-mails from you will be on the record -- publishable at my discretion and directly attributed to you. My cell-phone number is … . If you should decide you have anything constructive to share, you can try to reach me by phone. All of our conversations will also be on the record, publishable at my discretion and directly attributed to you."

I haven't heard back from the official. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

White House Threatens Bob Woodward

The White House just tried to bully Bob Woodward saying "you will regret this".  His crime?  Criticizing them on the sequester?  Here is the video:

The Decline of America in One Chart

ZeroHedge posted a couple of interesting charts on the long term decline of Italy and France.  They essentially showed how real 7 year GDP growth has gone from relatively decent numbers 50 years ago to almost nothing today (or even negative).  So I decided to make the same kind of chart for the United States.  I certainly don't like what I see. Over the last 50 years, our 7 year GDP growth was usually between 20-35 or even 40%.  But recently it's gone down to a paltry 7% (i.e. we are growing on average 1% a year for 7 years):

Obviously both parties are to blame.  The Democrats for over-regulating every industry so that compliance is  both expensive and nearly impossible and the Republicans for letting them (and joining in, in some cases).  Peter Thiel put it really well in his debate with Eric Schmidt:

PETER THIEL:  The why questions always get immediately ideological.  I'm Libertarian, I think it's because the government has outlawed technology.  We're not allowed to develop new drugs with the FDA charging $1.3 billion per new drug.  You're not allowed to fly supersonic jets, because they're too noisy.  You're not allowed to build nuclear power plants, say nothing of fusion, or thorium, or any of these other new technologies that might really work. 
So, I think we've basically outlawed everything having to do with the world of stuff, and the only thing you're allowed to do is in the world of bits.  And that's why we've had a lot of progress in computers and finance.  Those were the two areas where there was enormous innovation in the last 40 years.  It looks like finance is in the process of getting outlawed. 
So, if you ask why did all the rocket scientists go to work on Wall Street in the '90s to create new financial products, and you say well they were paid too much in finance and we have to beat up on the finance industry, that seems like that's the wrong side to focus on.  I think the answer was, no, they couldn't get jobs as rocket scientists anymore because you weren't able to build rockets, or supersonic airplanes, or anything like that.  And so you have to ‑‑ it's like why did brilliant people in the Soviet Union become grand master chess players?  It's not that there's something deeply wrong with chess, it's they weren't allowed to do anything else.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The List of Republican False Friends of Israel

I'm not terribly shocked that the Senate voted to end debate on the Hagel nomination given the Democratic majority (where even pro-Israel Senators have shown they are more loyal to their party than to their pro-Israel beliefs) and that only a few Republicans needed to shift for the vote to get over 60.  But what I am shocked about is the margin of 71-27 with a full 18 GOP Senators voting to end debate.  Did we get any more information on his financial dealings or any explanation of his anti-Israel comments over the last few years?  These 18 Republican Senators voted to end debate for no reason whatsoever, allowing the most anti-semitic, anti-Israel Secretary of Defense in decades to gain office.  Anyway, here is the full roll of the vote with Republican traitors in bold.  Let's get those primary challengers ready!:

Grouped By Vote Position
YEAs ---71
Alexander (R-TN)
Ayotte (R-NH)

Baldwin (D-WI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bennet (D-CO)
Blumenthal (D-CT)
Blunt (R-MO)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Burr (R-NC)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)

Coons (D-DE)
Corker (R-TN)
Cowan (D-MA)
Donnelly (D-IN)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Flake (R-AZ)Franken (D-MN)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)
Hagan (D-NC)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Heinrich (D-NM)
Heitkamp (D-ND)
Hirono (D-HI)
Johanns (R-NE)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kaine (D-VA)
King (I-ME)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Manchin (D-WV)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murphy (D-CT)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Schumer (D-NY)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shaheen (D-NH)
Shelby (R-AL)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Udall (D-NM)
Warner (D-VA)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)
NAYs ---27
Barrasso (R-WY)
Boozman (R-AR)
Coats (R-IN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
Cruz (R-TX)
Enzi (R-WY)
Fischer (R-NE)
Grassley (R-IA)
Heller (R-NV)
Hoeven (R-ND)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (R-WI)
Kirk (R-IL)
Lee (R-UT)
McConnell (R-KY)
Moran (R-KS)
Paul (R-KY)
Portman (R-OH)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rubio (R-FL)
Scott (R-SC)
Toomey (R-PA)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)
Not Voting - 2
Lautenberg (D-NJ)Udall (D-CO)

What the Senate is Accepting if They Approve Hagel

Just a horrible list (via Breitbart).  Pray for Israel if Hagel becomes Secretary of Defense:

1. U.S. troops should be deployed to Israel and a new Palestinian state at the head of an international peacekeeping force. 
2. The U.S. should negotiate with Hamas, a terror group devoted to Israel’s total destruction, and which rejects talks or peace with Israel.
3. The U.S. should impose a peace deal on Israel and the Palestinians, if necessary. 
4. The U.S. should not pressure the European Union to add the Hezbollah terror group to its official list of terror organizations--i.e. Hezbollah should be allowed to continue to raise money and to organize activities in Europe. 
5. Israel should not have defended itself against cross-border raids and terror rockets during the Second Lebanon War.
6. It is acceptable to refuse to express solidarity with Israel when it faces a brutal terror campaign consisting almost entirely of suicide attacks against civilians, in violation of all laws of war. 
7. It is appropriate to urge dialogue with Hamas even in the midst of a war in which that organization is firing a barrage of deadly rockets at Israeli civilians. 
8. It is acceptable to decline to endorse almost every pro-Israel letter circulated in Congress.
9. It is appropriate to characterize Israel’s future as “apartheid” if it does not make deep concessions as urgently as possible, despite the fact that Israel would have a sizable Jewish majority even including the West Bank. 
10. Israel’s supporters in the U.S., known as the “Jewish lobby” (or, as Hagel put it in his confirmation hearing, the “Israeli lobby) exert undue influence on foreign policy that the government must resist or ignore.
11. It is inappropriate to apply sanctions, unilateral or multilateral, to Iran in order to encourage compliance with binding UN resolutions about its nuclear program. 
12. The U.S. must engage the Iranian regime diplomatically, opening a U.S. consulate in Tehran if possible, even if the Iranian regime rejects negotiations. 
13. The U.S. should not attack Iran, even if the Iranian regime launches an attack that threatens Israel.
14. While it is right to pressure Israel, it is wrong to pressure Arab states to recognize Israel’s right to exist. 
15. It is acceptable to accept organizational funding from a known supporter of Hamas as well as from governments that refuse to recognize Israel, such as Saudi Arabia. 
16. It is acceptable to be honored by an anti-Israel organization that named a scholarship after Helen Thomas even after she was exposed as an antisemite.
17. It is acceptable to distort essential facts of Israeli history, such as the substance of the Balfour Declaration, or the conduct of the Israeli military during the Second Lebanon War. 
18. It is acceptable to describe the Israeli-Palestinian issue as the “core” of Middle East conflict
19. It is acceptable to make politically convenient conversions on many of the above issues, even when those conversions fail serious examination by the Senate
20. It is appropriate to mislead the Senate about recent speeches relevant to the issue.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Chuck Hagel Favors Sending US Troops to the West Bank to "Enforce" the Peace

Check out this recommendation from a Foundation for Middle East Peace report co-signed by Chuck Hagel back in 2009, a report addressed to the then newly elected Obama (h/t Israel National News):

A non-militarized Palestinian state, together with security mechanisms that address Israeli concerns while respecting Palestinian sovereignty, and a U.S.-led multinational force to ensure a peaceful transitional security period.  This coalition peacekeeping structure, under UN mandate, would feature American leadership of a NATO force supplemented by Jordanians, Egyptians and Israelis.  We can envision a five-year, renewable mandate with the objective of achieving full Palestinian domination of security affairs on the Palestine side of the line within 15 years.

It's pretty clear what would happen following the deployment of such a force.  The Palestnians would start a new wave of terror attacks on Israel and then use the peacekeeping force as shields.  And you know the Israelis would always err on the side of caution for fear of accidentally killing an American soldier, which will greatly hurt their deterrent threat.  Also, as we have seen in Lebanon, non-US peacekeeping forces from the international community have a history of aiding and abetting terrorists when those terrorists are facing the IDF.  Just a disaster waiting to happen.  Also, given that the nomination of Chuck Hagel himself is pretty much a middle finger to Israel and Jewish groups, I wouldn't be surprised if he was nominated with the idea of implementing these recommendations in mind.

Discretionary Spending has Doubled since 2000, so Why the Panic Over Sequestration?

Check out this graph that I came up with using the White House's historical budget tables and nominal GDP data from FRED:

As you can see, government spending has dwarfed the growth in the economy since 2000 with even non-Defense discretionary spending up a whopping 85% since then compared to growth in nominal GDP of 57.5% (so no blaming the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).  The sequester cuts barely even register as blips on these spending growth curves with total federal spending continuing to climb after these supposedly "draconian" cuts.

So all the scare tactics that seem to imply that aircraft will drop from the skies, cops and FBI agents will be let go and children will die from lack of vaccinations are just a bunch of BS.  As everyone who has been to a government office knows, there is plenty of slack in government with government workers being paid more to do less than private sector counterparts.  Check out this list of common sense cuts from Rand Paul that won't cause anyone to lose their jobs:

•         Stop Hiring New Federal Employees: $6.5 billion saved annually 

Every year, thousands of federal employees retire or leave their jobs. In 2011, roughly 62,000 people ended their careers with the government. Estimates vary, but allowing a federal bureaucrat to retire without replacing that person with another employee can save anywhere from $60 billion to $200 billion over 10 years. This provision estimates to save $6.5 billion in one year.

•·         Bring Federal Employee Pay in Line With Private Jobs: $32 billion saved annually 

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the average compensation of a federal employees is 16 percent more than their private equivalents. By reducing salaries to align more with their private counterparts, this provision could save as much as $32 billion a year.

•·         Reduce Federal Employee Travel by 25 Percent: $2.25 billion saved annually

The latest data provided by the General Services Administration suggested that the federal government spent $9 billion on travel. Reducing the federal travel budget by at least 25 percent can reduce the budget by $2.25 billion a year.

•·         Focus Military Research on Military Needs: $6 billion saved annually 

According to research done by the staff of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), found that the Defense Department spent $6 billion on research that had nothing to do with military or military-related health inquires.

•·         Require Competitive Bidding for Government Contracts: $19 billion saved annually 

The Davis-Bacon prevailing wages law requires federal projects to pay the employees higher wages. This would repeal this requirement and allow the government to save money by making pay competitive to all government employees. The Heritage Foundation estimates that this will save $9 billion a year. Also, many contracts in the federal government are provided to companies without requiring a competitive bid - or the opportunity for the government to contract work at the lowest price possible. This provision would require the government to competitively bid all contracts. This provision would save an additional $10 billion a year.

•·         Cut 50 Percent of Foreign Aid: $20 billion saved annually

We spend more than $40 billion a year on foreign aid. When we're dealing with a budget crisis here at home, it's only responsible to bring this money home. This provision would eliminate half the foreign aid budget. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

If Elections Were Held Today, Yair Lapid Would be Prime Minister of Israel

Just yesterday, I wrote that if new elections were called in Israel if Bibi was unable to form a government that Likud voters who went with Yesh Atid and Jewish Home would go back to Likud.  Well, so much for that.  According to a new poll that just came out, if elections were held today, Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid would have 30 seats in the Knesset and Likud would go down to 22 from 31.  Jewish Home would also go from 12 to 15 seats.  This would put Yair Lapid in a good position to form a new government.  What's really amazing about this is that Yair Lapid has zero political experience, spending his entire career as a journalist.  It's the equivalent of a Brian Williams becoming President of the United States without even holding a Congressional seat or any other post in government before.  All I can think of is that this is a mix of star power and that people may be so sick of Bibi's BS that if a right of center politician stands up to him, they immediately capture the hearts and minds of Israeli voters.  

This is what Bibi gets for arrogantly calling elections early.  Nobody, not even he, can predict the future in politics especially Israeli politics. What's worrisome was that this was an especially bad time to play craps with Israel's future with Iran on the verge of the nuclear thershold and an anti-semitic, anti-Israel maniac like Chuck Hagel on the verge of having control of the US Defense Department.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

You Just Don't Want to See How Sausages and Israeli Coalition Governments Are Formed

Seriously, it's like Bizarro world.  Tzipi Livni, who would criticize Bibi Netanyahu for just about every action under the sun, has become Bibi's first coalition partner.  She brings along MK Amir Peretz who quit Labor and joined Livni's Hatnuah simply because Labor wouldn't refuse to join any Netanyahu led government.  Then you have the people who are probably the most natural partners to Bibi and Likud (they sure got a lot of Likud voters because of this), Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid and Naftali Bennett's Jewish Home, who are playing hardball with Netanyahu and have so far refused to join the government.  As it stands now, if Bibi makes deals with the Haredi parties (Shas and UTJ) and Kadima, he will only be able to get to 57 out of 120 seats, short of what is needed to form a government.  If neither Labor, Yesh Atid nor Jewish Home sign up with the government, it just isn't clear what the next steps would be as there is really no alternative to a Netanyahu led government.  We could have to go through the entire election process again.  My guess is that eventually Jewish Home will have to buckle.  Imagine if there are new elections, a lot of the Likud voters who tried to be cute by voting Jewish Home, assuming that it would automatically join the government and tilt it towards the right, would simply go back to Likud.  Instead of helping govern Israel towards a more right wing direction, all Naftali Bennett will have achieved would be parliamentary chaos and the sabotage of a right wing government.  Jewish Home could easily go back to low-mid single digits.  Naftali Bennett better wake up and join the government before Bibi realizes all of this and decides that new elections are actually in his best interest.

Seriously, Israeli politics makes US politics look like bingo night at the JCC.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oh Great, the Military is Developing Killer Robotic Bugs

One more step towards the futuristic dystopian nightmare of your choice.  I'm not saying I begrudge the military weapons that will save American lives on the battlefield.  It's just these are the kinds of things that could be used for domestic purposes against dissenters.  The powers that be already refuse to say whether drones can be used inside the United States against American citizens (h/t The Atlantic):

Hagel: Israel is on its way to being an apartheid state, Bibi is a radical and Hamas should be brought into any negotiation

The hits keep on coming from Obama's Secretary of Defense nominee.  Besides saying he is "qualified" has the White House actually answered any of these allegations about past statements?  Here is the latest:

Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel said Israel is on its way to becoming an apartheid state during an April 9, 2010, appearance at Rutgers University, according to a contemporaneous account by an attendee.

Hagel also accused Israel of violating U.N. resolutions, called for U.S.-designated terrorist organization Hamas to be included in any peace negotiations, and described Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "radical," according to the source.

Kenneth Wagner, who attended the 2010 speech while a Rutgers University law student, provided the Washington Free Beacon with an email he sent during the event to a contact at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The email is time-stamped April 9, 2010, at 11:37 AM.

"I am sitting in a lecture by Chuck Hagel at Rutgers," Wagner wrote in the email. "He basically said that Israel has violated every UN resolution since 1967, that Israel has violated its agreements with the quartet, that it was risking becoming an apartheid state if it didn't allow the Palestinians to form a state. He said that the settlements were getting close to the point where a contiguous Palestinian state would be impossible."

"He said that he [thought] that Netanyahu was a radical and that even [former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi] Livni, who was hard nosed thought he was too radical and so wouldn't join in a coalition [government] with him. … He said that Hamas has to be brought in to any peace negotiation," Wagner wrote.


"I was very surprised at his attitude because I had been listening to politicians speak about the situation in the Middle East and the U.S. Israel relationship for about two decades," Wagner told the Free Beacon. "And it was probably the most negative thing I'd ever heard anybody in elected office say."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Note to Self: Don't Buy a Tesla Electric Car

I always thought electric cars are supposed to be "plug in and go", but based on what happened to this New York Times reviewer (who is currently being attacked by Tesla for giving a bad review after being stranded on the side of the road) it sounds like it's a nightmare.  The fact that he had to place a dozen calls to Tesla employees on such a short trip and then still got stuck on the side of the road is pretty telling.  Even worse are all the machinations he had to go through to try to maximize the range (going faster and slower, suffering through the cold while the car charges).  And in the end, if the electricity you are getting is coming from coal fired plants, you might be creating more pollution than you would with an internal combustion engine.  Anyway, here is his account in response to Tesla's accusation that he was out to sabotage his own review:

Since 2009, I have been the Washington bureau reporter responsible for coverage of energy, environment and climate change. I have written numerous articles about the auto industry and several vehicle reviews for the Automobiles pages. (In my 16 years at The Times I have served as White House correspondent, Washington editor, Los Angeles bureau chief and a political correspondent.)

Before I set out in the Model S, I did speak with the company's chief technology officer, J B Straubel, about the charging network and some of the car's features and peculiarities. Neither he nor the Tesla representative who delivered the car to me provided detailed instructions on maximizing the driving range, the impact of cold weather on battery strength or how to get the most out of the Superchargers or the publicly available lower-power charging ports along the route.

About three hours into the trip, I placed the first of about a dozen calls to Tesla personnel expressing concern about the car's declining range and asking how to reach the Supercharger station in Milford, Conn. I was given battery-conservation advice at that time (turn off the cruise control; alternately slow down and speed up to take advantage of regenerative braking) that was later contradicted by other Tesla personnel. I was on the phone with a Tesla engineer in California when I arrived, with zero miles showing on the range meter, at the Milford Supercharger.

Beginning early in the morning of my second day with the car, after the projected range had dropped precipitously while parked overnight, I spoke numerous times with Christina Ra, Tesla's spokeswoman at the time, and Ted Merendino, a Tesla product planner at the company's headquarters in California. They told me that the loss of battery power when parked overnight could be restored by properly "conditioning" the battery, a half-hour process, which I undertook by sitting in the car with the heat on low, as they instructed. That proved ineffective; the conditioning process actually reduced the range by 24 percent (to 19 miles, from 25 miles).

It was also Tesla that told me that an hour of charging (at a lower power level) at a public utility in Norwich, Conn., would give me adequate range to reach the Supercharger 61 miles away, even though the car's range estimator read 32 miles – because, again, I was told that moderate-speed driving would "restore" the battery power lost overnight. That also proved overly optimistic, as I ran out of power about 14 miles shy of the Milford Supercharger and about five miles from the public charging station in East Haven that I was trying to reach.

To reiterate: Tesla personnel told me over the phone that they were able to monitor the state of the battery. It was they who cleared me to leave Norwich after an hour of charging. I spoke at some length with Mr. Straubel and Ms. Ra six days after the trip, and asked for the data they had collected from my drive, to compare against my notes and recollections. Mr. Straubel said they were able to monitor "certain things" remotely and that the company could store and retrieve "typical diagnostic information on the powertrain."

Mr. Straubel said Tesla did not store data on exact locations where their cars were driven because of privacy concerns, although Tesla seemed to know that I had driven six-tenths of a mile "in a tiny 100-space parking lot." While Mr. Musk has accused me of doing this to drain the battery, I was in fact driving around the Milford service plaza on Interstate 95, in the dark, trying to find the unlighted and poorly marked Tesla Supercharger. He did not share that data, which Tesla has now posted online, with me at the time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chuck Hagel: The State Department Has Become Adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's Office

According to a contemporaneous account that was posted on the website by a Hagel supporter in 2007, Hagel said that the State Department was an adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's Office at a speech at Rutgers that was sponsored by the Middle Eastern Studies Department and the American Iranian Council.  Can you imagine someone so anti-semitic and anti-Israel as Secretary of Defense while Israel faces an existential threat?  What's more shocking is that some supposedly pro-Israel politicians like Chuck Schumer actually are voting to approve his nomination.  And you would think that if Obama was telling the truth about being pro-Israel that he would have pulled the nomination by now (or never have made it in the first place!).  Anyway, here is what Hagel supporter George Ajjan wrote in 2007 (h/t Legal Insurrection):

6) The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister's office...

Wow. A very bold statement by Hagel bound to further raise the ire of the "Jewish Lobby" (yawn...), but it does express his strong belief in a comprehensive solution to problems in the Middle East. Hagel mentioned this theme several times - comprehensive, he said, in the sense that all tools should be used to achieve American foreign policy objectives (diplomatic, political, economic, and military), but also comprehensive in the James Baker sense of addressing the Arab-Israeli conflict holistically as both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush have proved too lazy and too incompetent to do.

Does Iran Already Have the Bomb?

A disturbing article from Lee Smith in Table Magazine:

 If North Korea has the bomb, then for all practical purposes Iran does, too. If that's so, then Obama's policy of prevention has failed, and containment—a policy that the president has repeatedly said is not an option—is in fact all Washington has.

If this sounds hyperbolic, consider the history of extensive North Korean-Iranian cooperationon a host of military and defense issues, including ballistic missiles and nuclear development, that dates back to the 1980s. This cooperation includes North Korean sales of technology and arms, like the BM-25, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Western Europe; Iran's Shahab 3 missile is based on North Korea's Nodong-1 and is able to reach Israel. Iran has a contigent of Iranian weapons engineers and defense officials stationed in North Korea. Meantime, North Korean scientists visit Iran. And last fall, both countries signed a memorandum of understanding regarding scientific, academic, and technological issues.

Given all this, there's a great deal of concern that, as one senior U.S. official told the New York Times, "the North Koreans are testing for two countries."


For North Korea, the incentive to transfer technology, or an actual bomb, in exchange for money, or whatever else the regime needs, is powerful. The only world power capable of discouraging them from proliferating is China, but the Chinese are not going to push much harder than offering stiff rhetoric. The Chinese don't necessarily want North Korea to have a bomb, but what they fear even more is destabilizing their neighbor such that the regime falls, the Korean peninsula is reunited, and they wind up with a pro-American government hosting 50,000 U.S. troops on their border. Beijing prefers to have a buffer.


"Some of us have been saying this is something to worry about for five or six years," said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C. "The North Koreans have been cooperating with Iran for about a decade on nuclear and missile issues, and the Iranians have several full-time weapons engineers on site in North Korea. Neither the North Koreans or the Iranians have made a secret of this. The Iranians were reported at North Korea's last nuclear test as well. It's hard to believe they had no access to the most recent test."

North Korea's previous test, its second, in May 2009 yielded an explosion half the size of Tuesday's. The preparatory commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization measured Tuesday's test as 5.0 in magnitude, which according to Sokolski is about half the size of the Hiroshima blast.

The fact that this is the third test, said Sokolski, is significant. "Either the North Koreans want to give the international community a nuclear Bronx cheer, or they're testing something more advanced than they tested the first two times. If you're trying to improve your technology you don't keep testing the same first generation device over and over again."


North Korea will get billions that Iran will happily pay for a bomb or blueprints. Iran, once in possession of the bomb, will see Europe and perhaps even the United States relax their sanctions regimes in the hopes of getting Iran to the negotiating table by playing nice.

If this is the case, Obama will go down in history as the American president who presided over global nuclear proliferation, including rogue regimes. After four years of restraining the Israelis, he may now be going to visit them next month for a good reason: to apologize.

Republicans Are Already Worrying Rand Paul Could Run As a Third Party Candidate

Ron Fournier at the National Journal wrote an interesting piece on how Republican and Democratic insiders are worries about the end of the two-party system.  Of course, Rand Paul figures prominently:

Inside the cozy enclaves of GOP bonhomie—hunkered at the tables of see-and-be-seen Washington restaurants—Republican leaders are sourly predicting a party-busting independent presidential bid by a tea-party challenger, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in 2016.

To them, the GOP apocalypse looms larger than most realize. Dueling State of the Union rebuttals and Karl Rove's assault on right-wing candidates are mere symptoms of an existential crisis that is giving the sturdiest Republicans heartburn.

And yet, the heart of the matter extends beyond the GOP. My conversations this week with two Republican officials, along with a Democratic strategist's timely memo, reflect a growing school of thought in Washington that social change and a disillusioned electorate threaten the entire two-party system.

Seem like a lot to swallow? Allow me to describe my last few days at work.

Between bites of an $18.95 SteakBurger at the Palm, one of Washington's premier expense-account restaurants, Republican consultant Scott Reed summed up the state of politics and his beloved GOP. "The party," he told me, "is irrelevant."

He cited the familiar litany of problems: demographic change, poor candidates, ideological rigidity, deplorable approval ratings, and a rift between social and economic conservatives.

"It's leading to some type of crash and reassessment and change," said Reed, who ran Bob Dole's 1996 presidential campaign and remains an influential lobbyist and operative. "It can't continue on this path."

Reed sketched a hypothetical scenario under which Paul runs for the Republican nomination in 2016, loses after solid showings in Iowa and other states run by supporters of his father (former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul), bolts the GOP, and mounts a third-party bid that undercuts the Republican nominee.

Paul, a tea-party favorite who was elected to the Senate in 2010, told USA Today on Wednesday that he was interested in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. "I do want to be part of the national debate," he said.

What are the odds of Paul or another GOP defector splitting the party? Reed asked me to repeat the question—and then grimaced. "There's a real chance," he replied.

The next morning, Rep. Reid Ribble of Wisconsin dipped his spoon into a bowl of strawberries, sugar, and pink milk—and declared the era of two major parties just about over. "I think we're at the precipice of a breakdown of the two-party system," said the Wisconsin Republican.

Voters are tired of partisan rancor and institutional incompetence, Ribble said, pointing to polls that suggest the number of independent voters is rising.

"Ross Perot was a goofy guy," he said of the deficit hawk who mounted two independent presidential bids in the 1990s. "If he was packaged as a different guy and had the Internet, he would have emerged [as president]. The warning bell he was sounded then is getting louder today."

2016 is a long way away, who knows what will happen then.  If the Republican establishment sabotages conservative candidates with the help of their friends in the right-leaning press, just like they did in 2012, it could happen (Karl Rove is already planning the attack ads as we speak on anyone who isn't Jeb Bush or Chris Christie).  Back in April, I wrote this in a piece titled "Screw the GOP, They Don't Seem to Want My Vote Anyway":

I'm done.  I'm a lifelong Republican and I'm done.  I've been a Republican since I was 6 and I saw Reagan speak on our old 13" black and white television set about freedom and about the evils of the Soviet Union, where I was born.  I grew up listening to Reagan and I kind of always thought that he was what the Republican Party stood for.  For individual liberty at home & abroad.  "Moderates" like George H. W. Bush seemed like some sort of aberration to me, an exception to the conservative Republican rule.  Looking back though, it's pretty clear that Ronald Reagan was the aberration.  In 1988, instead of nominating the father of the Reagan tax cuts, Jack Kemp, the GOP nominated the anti-Israel squishy moderate George H. W. Bush.  In 1996, instead of nominating the stalwart conservative Phil Gramm (lifetime ACU rating of 95) or the flat tax visionary Steve Forbes, the GOP nominated another squishy moderate, Bob Dole (lifetime ACU rating of only 82).  2000 was a joke as the establishment had pre-decided that W was going to be the nominee and he really didn't have any real opposition.  W, the "compassionate conservative".  We all know how that ended.  Ballooning federal spending and even a new entitlement!  It was so bad that even in his home state of Texas I heard of people say that he destroyed the Republican Party by governing the way he did.

Looking back before Reagan, I think the last Republican President I actually would have liked was Calvin Coolidge, who was elected in 1924, a whopping 88 years ago (even Reagan's 1980 election was a hell of  along time ago, a whopping 32 years).  So in 88 years, there have been a total of 2 Republican Presidents and only 3 nominees (add Barry Goldwater in 1964 to the mix) who believed in small government, free markets and individual liberty.  Being a Republican who believes in those things seems to be a great way to torture yourself.  You are constantly tempted into thinking "maybe this time" but more often than not they end up giving you someone you despise but feel you have to support as they are the lesser of two evils.  

I thought better of it because I couldn't sit out an election versus someone like Obama.  But the Republicans need to stop worrying about getting a member of their gang elected and start worrying about promoting actual conservative values or else there will be a large percentage of conservative voters that WILL bolt the party, especially if someone like Rand Paul is at the helm of a new effort.  For those familiar with history, the Whig Party went from controlling the Presidency through 1853 to not even being a party in 1856 (though the American Party, with former Whig President Millard Fillmore at head of the ticket, did come in as #3 in the votes).  

It's also possible that conservatives could get together and form a proper political party and then act somewhat like the Conservative Party of New York (though be actually Conservative).  Sometimes they would endorse the Republican, but if they don't agree with the choice, they would field their own candidate.  That would act as an incentive for the Republicans to nominate a candidate that is acceptable to conservatives.  Having a convention before the Republican primaries even start would probably maximize the Tea Party's impact.  Imagine if a conservative nominating convention had come together and endorsed just 1 of the conservatives running for the nomination before Iowa in 2012.  Instead of the vote being horribly split, allowing the only moderate in the race to win race after race with under 50% of the vote, the story might have been vastly different.

Milton Friedman vs. Obama on the Minimum Wage

I'll of course go with Milton Friedman on this one:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bibi Needs to Answer for Prisoner X

I've kind of been ignoring this story for a bit, at first I actually thought that a Mossad spy died in an Australian prison.  But now that I've started reading up about Prisoner X, I feel nothing but shock and revulsion.  It appears that an Israeli citizen (and father of two) who apparently was working for the Mossad was kept in solitary confinement in a prison cell meant for the assassins of Prime Ministers and was never allowed to see a lawyer (his guards never even knew his name).  He supposedly "committed suicide" in 2010 despite the fact that he was constantly under surveillance, including monitoring of his heartbeat. To lockup a Jew who was working for the Jewish State in the Jewish State like this and then possibly murder him, it just boggles the mind.  Was he a double agent for the Australians?  Was he involved in something embarrassing and was threatening to go public?  I don't really know anything that would have justified an Israeli citizen's imprisonment like this, especially without any sort of oversight. Is any Israeli citizen safe when they treat one of their own like this?  Is any agent of the Mossad?

Bibi must have known about this and given the okay.  He needs to come out and explain himself, especially given he is trying to build a coalition right now, and the Prisoner X scandal could give his potential coalition partners an excuse not to join a government with him (though the Jewish Home has already rejected his offer and Yesh Atid doesn't sound terribly close either).  Israeli government censorship of this story is so great right now that journalists aren't even allowed to mention that they have a gag order on this story.  But in the time of the Internet with most of the country on Facebook and Twitter, that censorship is powerless to stop the story and the outrage from spreading.  This story could be a real threat to Bibi if he doesn't come clean.  Also, it's hard to claim you are a "western-style" democracy when you make your own citizens (and government employees) simply disappear without a trace.  I really hope it's all fake.

Republicans Misunderstand the Buckley Rule

Supporters of wishy washy Republican candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain like to mention the Buckley Rule which states that we need to support "the rightwardmost viable candidate".  According to them,  true conservatives only cost us elections.  Well a former National Review editor, who was there when Bill Buckley voiced the Buckley Rule, says that these moderates have been misunderstanding what Buckley meant:

 We all knew what "viable" meant in Bill's lexicon. It meant somebody who saw the world as we did. Somebody who would bring credit to our cause. Somebody who, win or lose, would conservatize the Republican party and the country. It meant somebody like Barry Goldwater. (And so it came to pass. For the next 40 years, the GOP nominated and elected men from the West and the South. Nixon won twice, Reagan twice, the Bushes thrice. Only in recent cycles has the GOP reverted to its habit of nominating "moderates" favored by the establishment. Dole, McCain, Romney — all of them were admired by the fashionable media until they won the GOP nomination, at which point they were abandoned in favor of the liberal nominated by the Democrats.)

Bill Buckley was careful with words. If he had opted on that June day for the words "rightwardmost electable candidate," we would all have recognized it as a victory for Team Rockefeller. And life might look very different today. If there had been no Goldwater, National Review might not have become so influential, and if there had been no Goldwater, no National Review, there might have been no Reagan.

I did not check back every five minutes over the next 50 years to see if Bill had amended his formulation of the Buckley Rule. But in the following year, 1965, he reaffirmed his position by running in New York City as a third-party conservative against a highly electable Republican. I can tell you as the manager of that campaign that there was never a single day, from our first planning meeting in February until the polls closed in November, that Bill considered himself even remotely electable. But viable? Absolutely. He was the best candidate in the country to carry the conservative message into the heart of American liberalism. And for those who needed further reinforcement of the point, five years later Bill's brother, James, ran for the U.S. Senate as a third-party candidate against a mainstream-Republican incumbent.

We all understand that it is Karl Rove's mission to promote the Republican party. It was the mission of Bill Buckley to promote the conservative cause. There should be no confusion between the two.

Rand Paul: "The President offers you free stuff but his policies keep you poor."

A great State of the Union response from Rand Paul:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rand Paul versus Marco Rubio

Some people are making a big deal about tonight's speeches by Rand Paul and Marco Rubio as if it's some great sign of a civil war in the Republican Party.  First, let me just say that it is 2013 and the election is not for another 3 years, are we supposed to be talking with one voice already, almost 3 years before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire Primary?  This is the time for jockeying for position and making the relationships that will pay off in the Presidential race (Romney spent the years before 2012 bribing local politicians with campaign contributions in exchange for future endorsements).  And a Marco Rubio vs. Rand Paul battle in 2016 would hardly cause a "civil war".  Both have ACU ratings of 100 so far, represent the more principled end of the party and came into office on the backs of the Tea Party by battling establishment politicians.  

The big policy differences seem to come from immigration (where Marco Rubio favors what amounts to amnesty and Rand Paul favors a more measured approach) and foreign policy (though Marco Rubio did vote for Rand Paul's bill to cut off advanced weaponry gifts to Egypt) where conservatives often come down on both sides.  The biggest difference seems to come from style.  Marco Rubio has clearly been listening to his establishment handlers, like Bill Kristol, and has decided to lay low during the recent battles with Obama.  Where was he on the fiscal cliff or the debt ceiling?  MIA mostly.  And what bills did he sponsor?  Mostly stuff you really don't care much about like S. 3471, to eliminate the tax on Olympic Gold Medals won by our athletes and the seminal S. 3570, the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act which is about as interesting as it sounds.  His handlers did tell him to go after immigration, which is actually a relatively safe issue given that the mainstream media would be on his side on it.  Conversely, Rand Paul has been at the tip of the spear on a variety of issues, from the fiscal cliff to the debt ceiling to aid to Egypt.  He has sponsored legislation to audit the Federal Reserve and a National Right to Work Act.  He has also constantly been in the media espousing conservative values regardless of what was the popular or "consensus" opinion.  

If I had to guess, Marco Rubio's speech will start off about his modest beginnings and then talk in some broad strokes about how immigrants are great for this country and government isn't.  That's pretty much how most of his speeches go.  People keep saying how amazing they are but then he never really gives specifics about anything.  There is really only so much of that one can take before you think someone is just a charlatan or has been talking too much to consultants (he's pretty impressive so I'm guess it's the latter).  My guess is Rand Paul will give a much more fiery and specific speech about actual issues, putting our dire straits into perspective and how increasing freedom can help save us.

Anyway, it will be interesting to see how both do, both have 2016 at stake.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Video: Dr. Ben Carson Criticizes Obama's Divisive Policies at National Prayer Breakfast

In case you haven't seen it already, check out Dr. Ben Carson's speech at the National Prayer Breakfast last week.  It's very inspiring, he grew up in a single parent home in Detroit and now is Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.  Around the 16:00 mark it gets interesting and he essentially criticizes Obama's divisive, class-warfare oriented policies, with Obama sitting 6 feet away.

Here are some of the choice excerpts (full transcript is here):

One of our big problems right now, and like I said, I'm not politically correct, so I'm sorry, but you know - our deficit is a big problem. Think about it. And our National Debt - $16.5 Trillion dollars - you think that's not a lot of money? I'll tell you what! Count one number per second, which you can't even do because once you get to a thousand it will take you longer than a second, number per second. You know how long it would take you to count to 16 Trillion? 507,000 years - more than a half a million years to get there. We have to deal with this.

Here's a parable: A family falls on hard times. Dad loses his job or is demoted to part time work. He has 5 children. He comes to the 5 children, he says we're going to have to reduce your allowance. Well, they're not happy about it but - he says, except for John and Susan. They're, they're special. They get to keep their allowance. In fact, we'll give them more. How do you think that's going to go down? Not too well. Same thing happens. Enough said.

What about our taxation system? So complex there is no one who can possibly comply with every jot and tittle of our tax system. If I wanted to get you, I could get you on a tax issue. That doesn't make any sense. What we need to do is come up with something that is simple.

When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the Universe, God, and he's given us a system. It's called tithe. Now we don't necessarily have to do it 10% but it's principle. He didn't say, if your crops fail, don't give me any tithes. He didn't say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality. You make $10 Billion dollars you put in a Billion. You make $10 you put in $1 - of course, you gotta get rid of the loopholes, but now now some people say, that's not fair because it doesn't hurt the guy who made $10 Billion dollars as much as the guy who made $10. Where does it say you have to hurt the guy. He's just put in a billion in the pot. We don't need to hurt him.

It's that kind of thinking - it's that kind of thinking that has resulted in 602 banks in the Cayman Islands. That money needs to be back here, building our infrastructure and creating jobs - and we're smart enough - we're smart enough to figure out how to do that.

These Are the People the Government Does Give Guns To

Gun control advocates want to take away the guns of ordinary citizens and make them 100% dependent on the police for protection.  Based on what is going on in California where there were two incidents where innocent people have been shot by the police looking to find one of their own (Christopher Dorner) who just recently went on a killing spree, I don't think that is a good idea:

David Perdue was on his way to sneak in some surfing before work Thursday morning when police flagged him down. They asked who he was and where he was headed, then sent him on his way.

Seconds later, Perdue's attorney said, a Torrance police cruiser slammed into his pickup and officers opened fire; none of the bullets struck Perdue.

His pickup, police later explained, matched the description of the one belonging to Christopher Jordan Dorner — the ex-cop who has evaded authorities after allegedly killing three and wounding two more. But the pickups were different makes and colors. And Perdue looks nothing like Dorner: He's several inches shorter and about a hundred pounds lighter. And Perdue is white; Dorner is black.


In the first incident, LAPD officers opened fire on another pickup they feared was being driven by Dorner. The mother and daughter inside the truck were delivering Los Angeles Times newspapers. The older woman was shot twice in the back and the other was wounded by broken glass.

In Perdue's case, his attorney said he wasn't struck by bullets or glass but was injured in the car wreck, suffering a concussion and an injury to his shoulder. The LAX baggage handler hasn't been able to work since, and his car is totaled, Sheahen said.

As usual, the DiploMad puts it succinctly:

Increasingly cops in America are out of control. They are poorly trained, brutish, cowardly, and overpaid bureaucratic bullies to whom we have ceded extraordinary power and give exaggerated deference. I am not saying that all cops are this way, but most, yes, most are or will become that way after a couple of years of service in the Gang of Blue.


It is no surprise that this loser Chris Dorner was an ardent Obama supporter and a believer in gun control. He is also a lesson in why we need an armed citizenry.

I  hereby make a gun control proposal. It should appeal to liberals who have long lectured us all on "freedom of choice" when it comes to killing unborn babies: Anybody who doesn't like guns, and doesn't want any guns, should not buy any guns. The rest of us need to be ready for the Chris Dorners of the world.

Obamacare is Already Under-delivering

According to this, insurance will be more expensive and less people will be covered than thought.  I'll try to withhold by shock:

The latest news from four federal agencies is that 1) insurance will be a lot less affordable than Americans were led to expect, 2) fewer people than promised will get insurance and 3) millions of people who have coverage through a job now will lose it, thanks to the president's "reforms." Oh, and children are the biggest victims.

The Affordable Care Act is looking less and less affordable.

Start with the IRS's new estimate for what the cheapest family plan will cost by 2016: $20,000 a year to cover two adults and three kids. And that will only cover 60 percent of medical bills, so add hefty out-of-pocket costs, too.

The next surprise is for parents who thought their kids would be covered by an employer. Sloppy wording in the law left that unclear until last week, when the IRS ruled that kids won't be covered.

Starting in 2014, the law will require employers with 50 or more full-time employees to offer coverage or pay a penalty. "Affordable" coverage, that is — meaning the employee can't be told to contribute more than 9.5 percent of his salary. For example, a worker earning $40,000 a year cannot be required to pay more than $3.800.

But the law doesn't specifically mandate family coverage — and now the administration says that won't be required.

You can see why: If the lowest-cost family plan (again, two adults and three kids) is to run a whopping $20,000, and if the employee's contribution is limited to $3,800, the employer's tab would be $16,200 — adding about $7.40 an hour to the cost of that employee. Wisely, the IRS announced on Jan. 30 that employers won't have to pay for dependents.

But the Congressional Budget Office's much-cited prediction that ObamaCare would leave only 30 million people uninsured by 2016 was based on the assumption that kids would be covered by employers. At the very least, employers insuring their workers for the first time to avoid the penalty are unlikely to do that.

So how will the kids be covered? They won't. The IRS shocked the law's advocates by announcing that the insurance exchanges won't provide subsidies for a child whose parent is covered at work.