Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Global Warming Roundup

Some inconvenient truths:

Christopker Monckton in The Sunday Telegraph: The sun is warmer now than for the past 11,400 years discusses the shoddy science behind the UN's 2001 report on climate change, including:


The Disappearing Medieval Warm Period Posted by Picasa

Monckton also points out a number of quetionable assumptions, all of which work in favor of global warming:

• They gave one technique for reconstructing pre-thermometer temperature 390 times more weight than any other (but didn't say so).

• The technique they overweighted was one which the UN's 1996 report had said was unsafe: measurement of tree-rings from bristlecone pines. Tree-rings are wider in warmer years, but pine-rings are also wider when there's more carbon dioxide in the air: it's plant food. This carbon dioxide fertilisation distorts the calculations.

• They said they had included 24 data sets going back to 1400. Without saying so, they left out the set showing the medieval warm period, tucking it into a folder marked "Censored Data".

• They used a computer model to draw the graph from the data, but scientists later found that the model almost always drew hockey-sticks even if they fed in random, electronic "red noise".

• The UN dated its list of "forcings" (influences on temperature) from 1750, when the sun, and consequently air temperature, was almost as warm as now. But its start-date for the increase in world temperature was 1900, when the sun, and temperature, were much cooler.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A Sobering Look at Demographics

This got me:
As I say, this isn't a projection: it's happening now. There's no need to extrapolate, and if you do it gets a little freaky, but, just for fun, here goes: by 2050, 60 per cent of Italians will have no brothers, no sisters, no cousins, no aunts, no uncles. The big Italian family, with papa pouring the vino and mama spooning out the pasta down an endless table of grandparents and nieces and nephews, will be gone, no more, dead as the dinosaurs.
It's in The Future Belongs to Islam, an excerpt from Mark Steyn's new book "America Alone" at Macleans.ca. Some other depressing facts:
Greece has a fertility rate hovering just below 1.3 births per couple, which is what demographers call the point of "lowest-low" fertility from which no human society has ever recovered. And Greece's fertility is the healthiest in Mediterranean Europe: Italy has a fertility rate of 1.2, Spain 1.1.
What are the consequences? We're seeing them in Japan:
In The Children Of Men, P. D. James' dystopian fantasy about a barren world, there are special dolls for women whose maternal instinct has gone unfulfilled: pretend mothers take their artificial children for walks on the street or to the swings in the park. In Japan, that's no longer the stuff of dystopian fantasy. At the beginning of the century, the country's toy makers noticed they had a problem: toys are for children and Japan doesn't have many. What to do? In 2005, Tomy began marketing a new doll called Yumel -- a baby boy with a range of 1,200 phrases designed to serve as companions for the elderly. He says not just the usual things -- "I wuv you" -- but also asks the questions your grandchildren would ask if you had any: "Why do elephants have long noses?" Yumel joins his friend, the Snuggling Ifbot, a toy designed to have the conversation of a five-year old child which its makers, with the usual Japanese efficiency, have determined is just enough chit-chat to prevent the old folks going senile. It seems an appropriate final comment on the social democratic state: in a childish infantilized self-absorbed society where adults have been stripped of all responsibility, you need never stop playing with toys. We are the children we never had.
Steyn attributes the "enervated state of the Western world" to the nanny state:
The state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood -- health care, child care, care of the elderly -- to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. In the American context, the federal "deficit" isn't the problem; it's the government programs that cause the deficit. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a cheque to cover them each month. They corrode the citizen's sense of self-reliance to a potentially fatal degree. Big government is a national security threat: it increases your vulnerability to threats like Islamism, and makes it less likely you'll be able to summon the will to rebuff it. We should have learned that lesson on Sept. 11, 2001, when big government flopped big-time and the only good news of the day came from the ad hoc citizen militia of Flight 93.
I think this was borne out in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Read it all. Read the book.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Victor David Hanson on the Rumsfeld Resignation

Writing in The Corner:

I don't see how removing the Secretary of Defense helps either the country
or the Republicans, especially given the pre-election vote of confidence in
his full tenure. He was on the right track reforming the military; the
removal of the Taliban and the three-week victory over Saddam were inspired.

So we are down to his supposed responsibility for the later effort to stop
the 3-year plus insurgency, whose denouement is not yet known. Rumsfeld's
supposed error that drew such ire was troop levels, i.e., that he did not wish
to repeat a huge presence in the manner of Vietnam, but sought to skip the
1964-1971 era morass, and go directly to the 1972-5 Vietnamization strategy
of training troops, providing aid, and using air power.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Clinton Terrorism Record

Byron York over at National Review disputes President Clinton's claim to have left the incoming Bush administration an anti-terror strategy in Did Clinton Really Give Bush A “Comprehensive Anti-Terror Strategy?”. Most tellingly, he relies on the words of Clinton's point man on terror, Richard Clarke as he discussed this issue following a 2002 pro-Clinton story that appeared in Time Magazine (They Had a Plan) :

Finally, Richard Clarke himself debunked the story in a background briefing with reporters. He said he presented two things to the incoming Bush administration: “One, what the existing strategy had been. And two, a series of issues — like aiding the Northern Alliance, changing Pakistan policy, changing Uzbek policy — that they had been unable to come to any new conclusions from ‘98 on.”

A reporter asked: “Were all of those issues part of an alleged plan that was late December and the Clinton team decided not to pursue because it was too close to — ”

There was never a plan, Andrea,” Clarke answered. “What there was was these two things: One, a description of the existing strategy, which included a description of the threat. And two, those things which had been looked at over the course of two years, and which were still on the table.”

“So there was nothing that developed, no documents or no new plan of any sort?

“There was no new plan.”

“No new strategy? I mean, I mean, I don’t want to get into a semantics — “

“Plan, strategy — there was no, nothing new.”

“Had those issues evolved at all from October of ‘98 until December of 2000?”

“Had they evolved? Not appreciably.”
Doesn't sound like one, which is in-line with President Clinton's record of not responding to terrorist attacks, a record Richard Miniter recalls at the Wall Street Journal in What Clinton Didn't Do... which is worth quoting at length:
With that in mind, let us examine Mr. Clinton's war on terror. Some 38 days after he was sworn in, al Qaeda attacked the World Trade Center. He did not visit the twin towers that year, even though four days after the attack he was just across the Hudson River in New Jersey, talking about job training. He made no attempt to rally the public against terrorism. His only public speech on the bombing was a few paragraphs inserted into a radio address mostly devoted an economic stimulus package. Those stray paragraphs were limited to reassuring the public and thanking the rescuers, the kinds of things governors say after hurricanes. He did not even vow to bring the bombers to justice. Instead, he turned the first terrorist attack on American soil over to the FBI.

In his Fox interview, Mr. Clinton said "no one knew that al Qaeda existed" in October 1993, during the tragic events in Somalia. But his national security adviser, Tony Lake, told me that he first learned of bin Laden "sometime in 1993," when he was thought of as a terror financier. U.S. Army Capt. James Francis Yacone, a black hawk squadron commander in Somalia, later testified that radio intercepts of enemy mortar crews firing at Americans were in Arabic, not Somali, suggesting the work of bin Laden's agents (who spoke Arabic), not warlord Farah Aideed's men (who did not). CIA and DIA reports also placed al Qaeda operatives in Somalia at the time.

By the end of Mr. Clinton's first year, al Qaeda had apparently attacked twice. The attacks would continue for every one of the Clinton years.

• In 1994, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who would later plan the 9/11 attacks) launched "Operation Bojinka" to down 11 U.S. planes simultaneously over the Pacific. A sharp-eyed Filipina police officer foiled the plot. The sole American response: increased law-enforcement cooperation with the Philippines.

• In 1995, al Qaeda detonated a 220-pound car bomb outside the Office of Program Manager in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killing five Americans and wounding 60 more. The FBI was sent in.

• In 1996, al Qaeda bombed the barracks of American pilots patrolling the "no-fly zones" over Iraq, killing 19. Again, the FBI responded.

• In 1997, al Qaeda consolidated its position in Afghanistan and bin Laden repeatedly declared war on the U.S. In February, bin Laden told an Arab TV network: "If someone can kill an American soldier, it is better than wasting time on other matters." No response from the Clinton administration.

• In 1998, al Qaeda simultaneously bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224, including 12 U.S. diplomats. Mr. Clinton ordered cruise-missile strikes on Afghanistan and Sudan in response. Here Mr. Clinton's critics are wrong: The president was right to retaliate when America was attacked, irrespective of the Monica Lewinsky case.

Still, "Operation Infinite Reach" was weakened by Clintonian compromise. The State Department feared that Pakistan might spot the American missiles in its air space and misinterpret it as an Indian attack. So Mr. Clinton told Gen. Joe Ralston, vice chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, to notify Pakistan's army minutes before the Tomahawks passed over Pakistan. Given Pakistan's links to jihadis at the time, it is not surprising that bin Laden was tipped off, fleeing some 45 minutes before the missiles arrived.

• In 1999, the Clinton administration disrupted al Qaeda's Millennium plots, a series of bombings stretching from Amman to Los Angeles. This shining success was mostly the work of Richard Clarke, a NSC senior director who forced agencies to work together. But the Millennium approach was shortlived. Over Mr. Clarke's objections, policy reverted to the status quo.

• In January 2000, al Qaeda tried and failed to attack the U.S.S. The Sullivans off Yemen. (Their boat sank before they could reach their target.) But in October 2000, an al Qaeda bomb ripped a hole in the hull of the U.S.S. Cole, killing 17 sailors and wounding another 39.

When Mr. Clarke presented a plan to launch a massive cruise missile strike on al Qaeda and Taliban facilities in Afghanistan, the Clinton cabinet voted against it. After the meeting, a State Department counterterrorism official, Michael Sheehan, sought out Mr. Clarke. Both told me that they were stunned. Mr. Sheehan asked Mr. Clarke: "What's it going to take to get them to hit al Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon?"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Plame Kerfuffle Round-up

Victoria Toensing in the WSJ's OpinionJournal asks "What did Patrick Fitzgerald know, and when did he know it?" - What a Load of Armitage:
What Mr. Fitzgerald knew, and chose to ignore, is troublesome. Despite what some CIA good ol' boys might have told Mr. Fitzgerald, he knew from the day he took office that the facts did not support a violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act; therefore, there was no crime to investigate. Although he claimed in Mr. Libby's indictment that Ms. Plame's employment status was "classified," Mr. Fitzgerald refuses to provide the basis for that fact and, even if true, can point to no law that would be violated by revealing a "classified" (not covert) employment. It was this gap in the law that created the need to pass the act in the first place.

She also has questions for Armitage and Wilson as well:
Mr. Armitage also knew he had met with Bob Woodward on June 13, 2003, telling him about Mr. Wilson's wife's CIA employment and her role in her husband's trip to Niger. But when the FBI interviewed Mr. Armitage on Oct. 2, he admitted to the Novak conversation only, notably forgetting meeting with one of our country's premier investigative reporters. By attributing his longtime silence to Mr. Fitzgerald's request, Mr. Armitage must have forgotten Mr. Fitzgerald was not appointed until Dec. 30, 2003. If Mr. Armitage had come forward during those three months, there might never have been a special counsel.
Joseph Wilson. In July 2003, when he demanded an investigation of a White House cabal for violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act by "outing" his wife, Mr. Wilson knew Ms. Plame did not meet the factual requirements for covert status under the act. She was neither covert at the time of publication nor had a covert foreign assignment within five years. He acknowledged so in his book: "My move back to Washington [in June 1997] coincided with the return to D.C. of a woman named Valerie Plame." As the Senate negotiator for this 1982 act, I know a trip or two by Ms. Plame to a foreign country while assigned to Langley, where she worked in July 2003, is not considered a foreign assignment. I also know covert officers are not assigned to Langley.
David Corn was not happy with Ms. Toensing's charge that he was the first to reveal Valerie Plame's covert status, presumably based on information provided by her husband, Joe Wilson. Ms. Toensing replies in National Review - Hubris and Cliff May, who originally suggested that Corn exposed Plame's "covert" status backs her up with links to the primary documents in The Corner.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Assessing the Islamist Threat, Circa 1946

A precient analysis of the threat from Islam, prepared by the intelligence division of the U.S. War Department in 1946 and available at The Middle Eastern Forum - Assessing the Islamist Threat, Circa 1946 :
The Moslems remember the power with which once they not only ruled their own domains but also overpowered half of Europe, yet they are painfully aware of their present economic, cultural, and military impoverishment. Thus a terrific internal pressure is building up in their collective thinking. The Moslems intend, by any means possible, to regain political independence and to reap the profits of their own resources, which in recent times and up to the present have been surrendered to the exploitation of foreigners who could provide capital investments. The area, in short, has an inferiority complex, and its activities are thus as unpredictable as those of any individual so motivated.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"Those Crafty Hebrews..."

Jonah Goldberg in National Review Online on the prevalence and danger of conspiracy theories - America the Treacherous:

This rough beast slouches toward sedition because it assumes not that our leaders are knaves or even mere criminals, but that they are murderous Supermen with no loyalty to nation, decency or law. Our Constitution is a fraud, a charade for the rubes some of us naively call citizens. If you disagree, you’re either fool or “in on it.” In his 1964 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” Richard Hofstadter demonstrated that this fever of the mind is as old as America itself and its outbreaks flare up across the ideological landscape. What is so sad and frightening is that this diseased thinking is reaching epidemic proportions. More than a third of Americans believe the U.S. government was likely to have been involved in 9/11.

In the past, when these outbreaks occurred on the political right, liberal hand-wringers fretted about incipient fascism and rising McCarthyism. Today, the best we get from them is a bemused and sterile chuckle.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Pardongate

With all the talk of Hillary's Presidential bid, Classical Values reminds us of the baggage she's carrying: Pardon Hillary Now?:
The Pardongate scandal is an oldie but a goodie. It never got the play it should have, because the pardon fire sale happened at the last possible minute -- during the lamest lame duck days of the nearly extinct Clinton administration.

Not only had George W. Bush just been elected, the unsuspecting country was in the last stages of its naive, pre-9/11 days.

And now that I think about it, the country was still in its pre-blogosphere days! That means there were no hordes of bloggers to scrutinize the pardons. There were a lot of them, and as pure corruption goes, this was the worst scandal of the Clinton administration, and possibly any administration.
Read it all for a link-fest of sordid details.

Those enlightened Europeans - Happiness by Decree

From the Independent on Sunday by way of The Brussels Journal (Happiness by Decree), the UK is going to pilot test a program to teach happiness:
Lessons in happiness are to be introduced for 11-year-olds in state schools to combat a huge rise in depression, self-harm and anti-social behaviour among young people.
The sad thing is that its an import from the U.S.

When you think about it, its a natural outgrowth from lessons in self esteem - if self esteem leads to happier lives, why not dispense with the intermediary step and just teach happiness.

Brilliant.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ideas of God and America

Joshua Trevino, writing at The Brussels Journal, looking at the results of a demographic survey of the "netroots" from DailyKos, comes up with a great line:
Tellingly and predictably, many of these horrors have re-emerged in the post-Christian Europe of today, where we see all the casual murderousness of antiquity, without the good art.
The quip is prompted by what the survey reveals:
Have we mentioned that they are mostly enclaved, wealthy, angry and old? Add to that descriptor: "and probably not even monotheist". A more complete alienation from the average American could hardly be conceived.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, but as Trevino points out:
Is the “netroots” mostly Christian? Mostly left-wing Protestant? Mostly Jewish? No, no, and no. They cannot even muster a majority for simple monotheism. And the preponderance of them – roughly 40% - simply have no faith at all, identifying as either atheist or agnostic. How does this look like America? It doesn’t: this proportion in the nation at large is between 1% and 14%, depending on the survey. The “netroots” is barely one-quarter Christian; America is roughly three-quarters Christian. Within the “netroots,” the proportion of self-identified practitioners of “Wicca, Shinto,” “animist/shamanist” faiths, and adherents of “one of the ancient Greek, Nordic, Egyptian or Meso-American religions” outstrips that in America at large by nearly thirtyfold.
Not exactly typical. Whereas de Tocqueville saw religious belief as an imAmerica'sart of Ameroca's political institutions:
[T]he revolutionists of America are obliged to profess an ostensible respect for Christian morality and equity, which does not permit them to violate wantonly the laws that oppose their designs; nor would they find it easy to surmount the scruples of their partisans even if they were able to get over their own. Hitherto no one in the United States has dared to advance the maxim that everything is permissible for the interests of society, an impious adage which seems to have been invented in an age of freedom to shelter all future tyrants. Thus, while the law permits the Americans to do what they please, religion prevents them from conceiving, and forbids them to commit, what is rash or unjust.

This post-Christian modernism seeks to do away with tradition and restraint:

Their abandonment of the permanent things must and will have its nevitable effect: in the absence of faith, the old horrors rush to fill the void. The glorification of the self and the fetishism of the will resurrect the things that died with the old paganism: the killing of the young, the useless, and the suffering.

Read the whole thing here: Ideas of God and America

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

John Kerry's Skimmer Scam

With John Kerry's allies working on a dossier to refute claims made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in time for his 2008 run, Thomas Lipscomb looks at one particular incident in detail over at Real Clear Politics:

Kerry's summary of the mission? Here is what he told Tim Russert on "Meet the Press":

"We were in combat. We were in a very, very--probably one of the most frightening--if you ask anybody who was with me, the two guys who were with me, was probably the most frightening night that they had that they were in Vietnam... ."

Kerry in TOUR OF DUTY:

"It was a half-assed action that hardly qualified as combat, but it was my first... . ... [A] minor skirmish, but since I couldn't put my finger on what we really accomplished or on what had happened, it was difficult to feel satisfied. "

Finally, Kerry in TOUR OF DUTY a la recherche... from his "journal" nine days after "whatever" happened in Na Trang Bay:

"A cocky feeling of invincibility accompanied us up the Long Tau shipping channel because we hadn't been shot at yet, and Americans at war who haven't been shot at are allowed to be cocky."

Take your pick.

Poor Schachte, who had had a boring evening ending in a blown mission - somehow in the same time and place in that parallel universe to Kerry's "frightening" magical mystery tour - got debriefed by the Coastal Division 14 commander Hibbard, filed no after action report since there was no enemy action, told Hibbard Kerry wanted a Purple Heart, and hit the sack, mildly disgusted.

Kerry got back in the same time and same place, and filed no after action report. Neither did Mike Voss, despite an action as described by Kerry that certainly merited one and would have guaranteed him an automatic purple heart with no problems with either Hibbard or Schachte had he filed one. In fact, according to Hibbard, it would have been the only after action report filed on one of Schachte's skimmer missions which weren't as effective as he and Schachte had hoped. Schachte disagrees and is convinced there must have been "one or two."

Kerry reported to Navy doctor Louis Letson the next morning after duty hours began at 8 AM. Schachte had told him, "No enemy action, no purple heart." Kerry's appeal to Hibbard brought the rejoinder "I have seen rose thorn injuries worse than that. No enemy action, no purple heart." Surely a doctor would be more understanding, not that it mattered. Only Kerry's direct commanders could approve the award.

Kerry lay down on Letson's examination table and told Letson: "We were involved in a fire fight and we received fire from shore." One of the four or five men hanging around the dispensary out of Kerry's sight lowered his head and began to wag an emphatic "no" and stifle a laugh. Letson found ¼ inch fragment sticking out of Kerry's upper arm. It looked like wire about the diameter of a toothpick, he pulled it out with his forceps and flipped it with a tiny "klink" into a steel basin held by his Hospitalman, Jesus Carreon, to the applause of the appreciative audience. Letson was so amused he took a photo of Carreon holding the basin with the ½ inch fragment barely visible in the bottom of it.

An Inconvenient Truth for Gore

Scientists are skeptical on the claims in Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth:
"Scientists have an independent obligation to respect and present the truth as they see it," Al Gore sensibly asserts in his film "An Inconvenient Truth", showing at Cumberland 4 Cinemas in Toronto since Jun 2. With that outlook in mind, what do world climate experts actually think about the science of his movie?

Professor Bob Carter of the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University, in Australia gives what, for many Canadians, is a surprising assessment: "Gore's circumstantial arguments are so weak that they are pathetic. It is simply incredible that they, and his film, are commanding public attention."

But surely Carter is merely part of what most people regard as a tiny cadre of "climate change skeptics" who disagree with the "vast majority of scientists" Gore cites?

No; Carter is one of hundreds of highly qualified non-governmental, non-industry, non-lobby group climate experts who contest the hypothesis that human emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing significant global climate change. "Climate experts" is the operative term here. Why? Because what Gore's "majority of scientists" think is immaterial when only a very small fraction of them actually work in the climate field.

Even among that fraction, many focus their studies on the impacts of climate change; biologists, for example, who study everything from insects to polar bears to poison ivy. "While many are highly skilled researchers, they generally do not have special knowledge about the causes of global climate change," explains former University of Winnipeg climatology professor Dr. Tim Ball. "They usually can tell us only about the effects of changes in the local environment where they conduct their studies."

This is highly valuable knowledge, but doesn't make them climate change cause experts, only climate impact experts.
Read the whole story: Scientists respond to Gore's warnings of climate catastrophe - "The Inconvenient Truth" is indeed inconvenient to alarmists as reported in the Canada Free Press.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Screwtape on Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Reading Party of Death reminded me of this:
"It is true," Screwtape continues with a shrug, "that much of the groundwork was already laid. We had already convinced people of the rightness of destroying inconvenient life. Now they talk quite coolly of "blastocysts," and "clumps of cells" and "surplus embryos." My genius was to recognize that they needed just a little push to be convinced, with their mania for recycling, that by harvesting something that would otherwise be chucked out, they are doing a positive good! Think of it: They believe they occupy "the moral high ground." Oh, the profits for us — "
From Screwtape Revisited by Meghan Cox Gurdon on National Review last year.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The "Reality Based Party" on 9-11

The "9-10 Democrats" are now joined by the "9-11 Morning" academics - The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on college professors sunk in the swamp of 9-11 conspiracy theories - Professors of Paranoia? :
Nearly five years have gone by since it happened. The trial of Zacarias Moussaoui is over. Construction of the Freedom Tower just began. Oliver Stone's movie about the attacks is due out in theaters soon. And colleges are offering degrees in homeland-security management. The post-9/11 era is barreling along.

And yet a whole subculture is still stuck at that first morning. They are playing and replaying the footage of the disaster, looking for clues that it was an "inside job." They feel sure the post-9/11 era is built on a lie.
For some sanity, see 911myths.com.

Democrats Keep Betting on Failure in Iraq

From John Fund at the WSJ: Trying to Get Even:

During last week's congressional debate over the war in Iraq, critics of the Bush administration's policy made three arguments: that President Bush more or less lied when claiming Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S., there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and that no progress is being made in the war there.

All three assumptions rest on shaky ground, so it is remarkable how much critics have seized on them with such fervor and certainty--the very vices of which they accuse the war's supporters. Indeed, one wonders how Democrats would react if real evidence of weapons of mass destruction, say the discovery of chemical weapon shells, surfaced. Would they step back and re-evaluate their assumptions, or would they accuse the Bush administration of planting the evidence as part of a Karl Rove-inspired pre-election dirty trick?
Fund analyzes all three assumptions of the "reality based" party and they don't exactly look like chalk. Marc Cooper sees the same losing bets in Electoral Roulette:
What does the Democratic Party and loser-gamblers have in common? Well.....

Last week when I was in the Sandia Canyon casino outside of Albuquerque, I was watching a mark play the roulette wheel in the most bizarre fashion. He had bet just about everything available. He was sure to get paid off each pass of the wheel. And just as sure to lose a small percentage of his stake each time. I noticed, for example, that he had put $10 on each of the three columns of 12 numbers each. Because every number on the board is in one or the other of the columns, the winning bet pays only 2 to 1. If you bet all three, you will get paid every turn of the wheel but you will only make back your bet. You will put $30 down on the table. And you will collect $30. You can't win. But if a 0 or 00 comes up -- a one-in-nineteen chance-- you lose everything. Only a fool would take that tack.

Yet, that's exactly the "strategy" the Democrats are using now on the issue of the war. It dawned on me today that the Dems are hedging their bet in the same exact manner. I listened very carefully today to two separate interviews DNC Chair Howard Dean gave on cable news stations. And it matched up perfectly with what Harry Reid told me a week ago when I interviewed him in Nevada. The Democrats do have a position on the war; in fact, they have three. Or is it four?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tax and Spending Round-up

Willisms updates a graphic on Federal spending to reflect entitlements:


Federal Spending Posted by Picasa

A frequent complaint of the Left is that U.S. military spending is greater than the rest of the world's combined, but our GDP is also far and away the biggest. To put it in perspective:

According to the CIA World Factbook, the United States spent roughly 4% of GDP on the military, which positioned America in 26th place in the world in military spending as a percentage of its economy. Despite that relatively low level of spending (the U.S. spent in the double-digits throughout much of the 20th century), the United States still spent more than six times more than second place China in actual dollars. That's, perhaps, one reason why many left-wingers at home and abroad want to destroy America's economy with high taxes, overzealous environmental and labor regulations, and other Marxist ideology-in-action. America's enormous, booming economy allows for substantial force projection in the world, all at a relatively low cost.
The truth is "entitlements" (a politically correct term for "hand-outs") represent the majority of Federal outlays and dwarf military spending.

On the other side, Tax Prof Blog picks up on a WSJ editorial pointing out the rise in tax revenues following the capital gains cut - Tastes Great, More Filling:

Well, what do you know. The latest statistics on capital gains tax collections were recently released by the Congressional Budget Office, and receipts are not down but way up. By 45% to be exact. As part of President Bush's 2003 investment tax cut package, the capital gains tax rate was reduced to 15% from 20%. Opponents predicted, as ever, that this would reduce tax revenue.

Not even close. Here's what actually happened. This 25% reduction in the tax penalty on stock and other asset sales triggered a doubling of capital gains realizations, to $539 billion in 2005 from $269 billion in 2002. One influence was the increase in stock values over that time, thanks in part to the higher after-tax return on capital induced by the tax cuts.

But another cause for the windfall was almost certainly the "unlocking" effect from investors selling their existing asset holdings in order to realize some of their profits and pay taxes at the lower rate. They could then turn around and buy new assets, hoping for higher rates of return. This "unlocking" promotes the efficiency of capital markets by redirecting investment into new and higher value-added companies. It also yields a windfall for the Treasury. In 2002, the year before the tax cut, capital gains tax liabilities were $49 billion at the 20% rate. They rose slightly to $51 billion in 2003, then surged to $71 billion in 2004, and were estimated by CBO to have reached $80 billion last year -- all paid at the lower 15% rate. In short, the lower rate yielded more revenue.


Capital Gains Tax Revenues Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 18, 2006

What's in Store for France?

Fjordman has some thoughts on possible scenarios at The Gates of Vienna: The Fall of France and the Multicultural World War:

"Muslim blogs are calling for violence against the Jews, the whites and the well-to-do. They say, “We must burn France, as Hamas will burn Israel.” The growth of the Islamic population is explosive. According to some, one out of three babies born in France is now a Muslim. Around 70% of French prisoners are Muslims. Hundreds of Muslim ghettos are already de facto following sharia, not French law. Some have pointed out that the French military are not always squeamish, but there are estimates that 15% of the armed forces are already made up of Muslims, and rising. How effective can the army then be in upholding the French republic? At the same time, opinion polls show that the French are now officially the most anti-capitalist nation on earth. France has chosen Socialism and Islam. It will get both, and sink into a quagmire of its own making. Some believe France will quietly become a Muslim country, others believe in civil war in the near future:"

He lists the possibilities as Eurabia, War and a Western Rebirth. I'm not too optimistic about the last one - I think the Eurabia/Pakistanization of Europe scenarios look a lot more likely.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Darfur - Another Opportunity to Bash Bush

Nina Shea on National Review Online writes about George Clooney's apparent partisan motivations for his recent Darfur activism:

"Clooney, as well as other Save Darfur leaders, also agrees that the Bush administration has done more for Darfur than any other government. (snip)


So when Clooney urges a “multi-national” peace keeping force going into Darfur, he must be envisioning a large and powerful army legitimized by the inclusion of troops from other Muslim and Arab nations and sanctioned by the United Nations’ Security Council. And Bush would then have to be blamed for failing to persuade the Arab League and China to vote against their own economic interests in order to defend the human rights of insignificant, impoverished African tribes against the oil-rich Khartoum regime. (snip)


Yet Clooney does not seem to have any intention of criticizing these countries—in his view, attribution of blame is to be reserved almost exclusively for the Bush administration. Rarely does he criticize any other government by name—not even the government of Sudan, the author of the genocide. His discussion of the facts of Darfur focuses on the victims and on the United States, not on the perpetrators in Sudan and their abettors in China, the Arab League, and the U.N.

Since seizing power in 1989, Sudan’s President Omar al Bashir has led a regime responsible for the deaths of at least two and a quarter million people, making him the bloodiest dictator alive. It is important not to forget that Darfur is Bashir's second genocidal campaign against his countrymen. He waged the first against the African traditional believers and Christians of south Sudan, resulting in two million deaths, with most occurring over the period of a decade, beginning in the early nineties. Elie Wiesel characterized this as "genocide in slow motion." Employing similar tactics to those now used in Darfur, the government, and the Bagarra tribal militias it armed, regularly bombed, burned, and looted southern villages, schools, hospitals, and food distribution centers; they enslaved and raped thousands of women and children; and they relocated entire villages into refugee camps. As in Darfur, deliberate mass starvation, accomplished in part by banning international relief, was the regime's most lethal weapon.

The death toll in the South from a conflict that ended only last year represented ten times the number dead so far in Darfur. Clooney’s voice was nowhere to be found when this was happening. But still, why doesn’t he ever talk about it now and relate its many obvious similarities to Darfur? Mentioning Bashir’s role in the southern genocide would be an important means of pressuring the regime. Could it be that, since most of those deaths occurred during the Clinton administration, and President Bush took the lead in successfully ending it, Clooney sees no political gain in bringing it up? Could it be that he is more interested in shaming Bush than Bashir?"


Read the whole thing here: Clooney Does Darfur

Monday, April 03, 2006

French Job Law Protests & the Free Market

A lack of belief in the free-market system lies behind the French job law protests. World Public Opinion points out that only 36% of the French polled believe that the free-market system is "the best system on which to base the future of the world". This is the lowest result of any of the countries listed and far behind the 70%+ results in China, the US, the Philippines and Korea. Who says communism is dead?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tax Facts Roundup

Tax revenues have grown since the 2003 tax cuts. FY 2005 tax receipts hit $2.15 trillion - the highest level in history.

Taxes are still disproportionately paid by the wealthy:

  • The top 20% of earners account for 60.3% of taxable income and pay 71.9% of total personal income taxes collected. Every group below them pays proportionately less.
  • The same holds true within the top 20% - the top 5% earn 33.5% and pay 43.9%
On the spending side, Angry Bear looks at major categories of federal spending and argues that President Bush has held back discretionary spending. You wouldn't think so from all of the new projects he's outlined, but facts are facts.