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The Babe Theory Of Political Movements.
Mar. 21, 2005 11:50 AM
Iran's Sham Election In Houston.
June 20, 2005 5:36 AM
Yes, Kanye, Bush Does Care.
Oct. 31, 2005 12:41 AM
Health Care vs. Wealth Care.
Nov. 23, 2005 3:28 PM
Americans Voting With Their Feet.
Nov. 30, 2005 1:33 PM
Idea Majorities Do Matter.
May 12, 2006 6:15 PM
Twilight Zone Economics.
Oct. 17, 2006 12:30 AM
The "Shrinking" Middle Class.
Dec. 13, 2006 1:01 PM
From Ashes, GOP Opportunities.
Dec. 18, 2006 6:37 PM
Battle Between Entitlements & Pork.
Dec. 21, 2006 12:31 PM
Let Economic Freedom Reign.
Dec. 22, 2006 10:22 PM
Biggest Health Care Moment In Decades.
July 25, 2007 4:32 PM
Unions Antithetical to Liberty.
May 28, 2008 11:12 PM
Right To Work States Rock.
June 9, 2008 12:25 PM
Ace of Spades
Social Security Reform Thursday.
January 29, 2008
Caption Contest Archive
Jan. 21, 2009
The Carnival Of Classiness.
Mar. 14, 2006
Quotational Therapy: Obama.
Apr. 4, 2008
Mainstream Melee: Wolfowitz.
May 19, 2007
Pundit Roundtable: Leaks.
July 9, 2006
A WILLisms.com(ic), by Ken McCracken
July 14, 2006
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John Chaney: A Goon-gate Update.
Over the weekend, WILLisms.com commented on "Goon-gate," where Temple's head basketball coach sent in a player to purposely hurt players on St. Joe's squad.
Today, an update:
John Chaney "suspended himself" for the Atlantic Ten tournament. No word if he plans to coach in the NIT (or NCAA, should the Owls win the A-10 tourney); also no word on next year.
This is a move in the right direction, but it is unfortunate that Temple offered Chaney the dignity to determine his own fate.
Chaney's dismissal should not be his own decision. He made his decision when he sent a "goon" (his own word) to break a player's arm. With that action, in the larger context of his career of thuggery, he forfeited any right to coach another basketball game for the rest of his life. This should not be a difficult choice.
And it should not be Chaney's choice.
Also, still no word on the matter from Temple alumnus Bill Cosby, Chaney's personal friend.
Random, Relevant Paul Wolfowitz Comment.
Paul Wolfowitz is often the poster child for the "neocon cabal" running America, demonized by liberals as an agent of Israel. Wolfowitz is also often caricatured by left-wingers as a single-minded war-mongerer who wrecklessly took us to war in Iraq; Michael Moore's movie Fahrenheit 9/11 showed Wolfowitz unflatteringly, licking his fingers to fix his hair for a television interview in high winds.
With freedom on the march in nations around the world, often in peaceful revolutions rather than through direct military intervention, an anecdote Wolfowitz made in Congressional testimony (at the Senate Armed Services Committee) on February 3, 2005 needs to be mentioned:
"We've seen an incredible expanse of freedom in Central and Eastern Europe and, most recently, in Georgia and Ukraine.
Dictators around the world are realizing, some too late for their own good, that the world is changing. They can either change with it, or become left behind by the advance of history. Under dictatorships, there is no stability, and with freedom on the march, we're beginning to see some tyrants understand this and acquiesce to democratization.
Some, however, grasp in vain to their power, clutching it for a few remaining moments of glory. History will not judge them kindly.
Unprecedented Events In Lebanon.
WILLisms.com previously noted the strange and wonderful recent events in Lebanon.
Today, the process took another step forward, as Lebanon's Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami resigned.
"Out of concern that the government does not become an obstacle to the good of the country, I announce the resignation of the government I had the honor to lead." Karami told parliament in Beirut on Monday.
The move came following protests in Lebanon and at the U.N. for Lebanese freedom and independence from Syrian Ba'ath Party (yes, that Ba'ath Party) domination.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here are several pictures:
"This is Assad's worst nightmare come true. With the Syrians, especially the Kurds in the northeast, watching the Iraqis vote in the first free multi-party elections ever on their east and the Lebanese on their west showing how fragile the Syrian grip on power truly is, the Assad government may wind up facing similar demonstrations in the streets of Damascus, demanding free multi-party elections -- which would end Assad's grip on power, unless he got in front of the effort immediately.
WILLisms.com brought you extensive coverage of President Bush's trip to Europe ("A Preview" ; "Part Two" ; "Grading Thus Far" ; "Brings Up China, European Integration" ; "Well, It Was Real, It Was Fun, But Was It Real Fun?"), but WILLisms.com's favorite Canadian writer Mark Steyn has a must-read recap of the adventure.
"A week ago, the conventional wisdom was that George W. Bush had seen the error of his unilateral cowboy ways and was setting off to Europe to mend fences with America's 'allies.'
Steyn then turns his attention to the European Union's proposed Constitution, arguing that it:
"...would be unrecognizable as such to any American. I had the opportunity to talk with former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing on a couple of occasions during his long labors as the self-declared and strictly single Founding Father. He called himself 'Europe's Jefferson,' and I didn't like to quibble that, constitution-wise, Jefferson was Europe's Jefferson -- that's to say, at the time the U.S. Constitution was drawn up, Thomas Jefferson was living in France. Thus, for Giscard to be Europe's Jefferson, he'd have to be in Des Moines, where he'd be doing far less damage.
Steyn then goes one step further, describing Europe's impending demise:
"For what it's worth, I incline to the latter position. Europe's problems -- its unaffordable social programs, its deathbed demographics, its dependence on immigration numbers that no stable nation (not even America in the Ellis Island era) has ever successfully absorbed -- are all of Europe's making. By some projections, the EU's population will be 40 percent Muslim by 2025. Already, more people each week attend Friday prayers at British mosques than Sunday service at Christian churches -- and in a country where Anglican bishops have permanent seats in the national legislature.
His last line is particularly necessary to understand. India and China, and to a lesser extent, Brazil, are the emerging powers in the world. The United States, meanwhile, unlike Europe, does not have to witness our own decline from the sideline. There is very little reason America can't go on being the world's greatest power for the next century or more if we do the right things, but it will require major education reform, major immigration reform, major tax reform, major legal reform, major medical reform, major pension reform, and a litany of other reforms to keep the U.S. as the most powerful engine of commerce in the world.
"Goon-gate" Strikes College Basketball: The Downfall of John Chaney.
John Chaney: Certified Unclassy.
John Chaney, Temple University's head basketball coach, has a career record of 722-294, good enough for fourth place among active coaches. Chaney's zone defenses are, year-in, year-out, among the best in the country; high school coaches across the country show film of Chaney's teams to teach the nuances of playing his brand of basketball.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001 for his career accomplishments.
Chaney threw all that away this week, tarnishing his legacy and disgracing his school.
Chaney, upset by what he considered poor officiating in a 63-56 loss to St. Joseph's University, sent in a "goon" to "send a message" (his own words) to the St. Joe's Hawks. The result: St. Joe's, a 15-9 team (12-1 in conference play) that still likely needs to win its conference tournament to make the NCAA tournament, now has a 6th-man with a broken arm. Chaney, at this point, has gotten off with a slap on the wrist.
The goon: Nehemiah Ingram, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound bench-warmer. Before the cheap shot that led to the broken arm, Ingram also threw elbows, landing blows on the jaws on at least two other Hawks players. Sports Illustrated reports that a "Temple spokesman said no disciplinary action was taken against Ingram."
The victim: St. Joseph's University's John Bryant, co-captain of his team, a model student athlete who has already graduated and is now attending graduate school. His basketball career is most likely over. Bryant said, of Chaney:
"I grew up watching Chaney, I still admire him, but I don't really understand the situation fully. It was just weird."
It was more than just weird, yet the incident was completely typical of John Chaney, a characteristic about which even the most devoted college basketball fanatics knew very little, because of always-glowing media coverage of Chaney.
As CBS points out, Chaney has a distinguished history of thuggery:
"Chaney once grabbed the neck of a rival coach, George Washington's Gerry Gimelstob, in 1984. Everyone looked the other way. That's just John Chaney.
That's not the half of it. MSNBC notes a bizarre story from twelve years ago, very reminiscent of the latest incident:
"Remember the physical, 1993 NCAA West Region final? The day before the Michigan-Temple game in a news conference, Chaney asked his freshman brute of a center, William Cunningham, 'William, are you going to attack Chris Webber?'
Not only was the "hit" Chaney put out on St. Joe's horrific, it was pre-meditated rather than in the heat of coaching passion (not that doing it in the heat of the moment would have made his actions any more acceptable)[also from MSNBC]:
"The day before he sent Ingram out as an enforcer, Chaney was on a conference call with reporters. He bemoaned what he called illegal screens set by Saint Joseph's players and said he would dispatch 'one of my goons and have him run through one of those guys and chop him in the neck or something.'"
After the game, when it became clear that Bryant was seriously injured, Chaney did not seem concerned:
"That's what happens. I'm a mean, ornery SOB."
Rick Majerus, former coach of Utah (and for about a week this season, of U.S.C.) and current analyst for ABC and ESPN, was ready to excuse Chaney for his actions on Saturday, saying that any young man would be lucky to have the opportunity play for John Chaney. Majerus went even further over the top, saying he personally would have been honored to have been able to play for Chaney. While still a coach, it must be noted that Majerus was removed as a voter in the ESPN/USA Today's basketball coaches' poll for slotting in Temple at number 9, despite the Owls' 6-12 record. Majerus subsequently wrote a letter of apology for the incident, blaming the flub on his assistant.
Majerus said Chaney's suspension for the remainder of the regular season is appropriate, because of Chaney's history, and because Chaney was contrite. Indeed, Chaney labels himself "contrite," according to Sports Illustrated:
"Chaney said he called Bryant on Friday morning to apologize and also said he planned to talk to his parents. Chaney also offered to pay for Bryant's medical bills."
That's too little, too late. Chaney could have expressed contrition before he realized his legacy was on the line. But he didn't. He chose to tell reporters, "that's what happens."
In a just world, Chaney would face both criminal and civil charges, spend at least a few nights in jail, and be removed from the Basketball Hall of Fame. At the least. His entire career also ought to have an asterik by it. Any biography of Chaney must have the word "goon" in the title.
Chaney has been exposed as a fraud. His punishment, a mere 3-game suspension, is not enough. Chaney should not even be given the dignity of resigning. He should be fired, and fired very publicly. He should be humiliated and disgraced, an example made of his recent actions within the context of his entire nefarious career of bullying.
What's even worse is that Chaney's unclassy leadership has created an atmosphere of hooliganism at his school (as described by USA TODAY):
"Some Temple students spit in the direction of Bryant and Saint Joe's cheerleaders and booed when Bryant got up and walked off the court....
Actually, John, they are precisely indicative of everything you have represented over your career, and while you may have regret, the students were merely following your example.
One wonders what Bill Cosby, proud Temple alumnus, would have to say about all this this, given his recent history of controversies.
Bottom line, John Chaney ended a player's career through cheap violence. For that, he should forfeit his own career. If John Chaney coaches another basketball game this or any other year, it will be a travesty.
Egypt: Freedom On The Way?
Previously, WILLisms.com noted some strange and wondering happenings in Lebanon, including these comments from Lebanese intifada leader Walid Jumblatt:
"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world. The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
Now Egypt is showing signs of change.
Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak today announced that he intends to move Egypt toward democratic reforms. Mubarak told Egyptians:
"...that the election of the president of the republic should be made through a secret public direct voting, allowing political parties to take part in the presidential elections and providing guarantees that allow more than one candidate to participate in the elections for the president of the republic so that people can make a free choice between them."
Egypt, currently rated "Not Free" by Freedom House (civil liberties rating- 6, political rights- 6; with 1 being best, 7 being worst), has received more than fifty billion dollars in American aid over the thirty years. The aid's main purposes:
1. Increase stability of the Egyptian regime, preventing an Islamic fundamentalist ideology from seizing power.
2. Provide incentive for Egypt, widely accepted as the leading Arab nation, to stop incessantly going to war with Israel, which would lead to peace in the region.
3. Ensure U.S. access to the Suez Canal (particularly during the Cold War).
4. Make Egypt supportive of U.S. policies and ideals in the region.
5. Help Egypt modernize its economy and its infrastructure, because it was thought that a strong economy would lead to Egypt's eventual democratization.
The aid has only served some of its intended purposes, failing miserably in others.
Egypt's inclusion in the Iraq coalition could have potentially helped frame the conflict less as "the U.S. versus Muslims," but Egypt strongly denounced the Iraq war. And why wouldn't they? If America is in the business of ridding the world of tyrannies, the Egyptian tyranny must surely be on the list somewhere.
U.S. aid to Egypt has created a sort of "Dutch Disease" effect, which simply means that the Egyptian economy has become dependent on a free lunch, so it failed to modernize and diversify the rest of its economy.
While the U.S. might have, in the short-term, staved off fundamentalist extremists from gaining power, Egypt has paradoxically become one the worst hotbeds for anti-Americanism, fueled in part by virulently anti-American state-run Egyptian media. Egyptians express deep and broad levels of hostility toward the U.S, despite the fact that U.S. dollars have provided major roads, sewage systems, power grids, and other necessities of modern life. More Egyptians know that Japan helped build the Cairo Opera House than know the U.S. has been providing tens of billions of dollars over the years; America gets ever-diminishing returns on its foreign aid to Egypt.
Of those Egyptians who do realize America has provided vast sums of money to Egypt over the years feel that the U.S. is propping up a corrupt and tyrannical regime, the regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak said that the proposed reform,
"...allows for the first time in Egypt's political history the opportunity to all who have the ability to give, the desire to serve the country, to cope with the responsibility of protecting people's achievements and providing care for the people and their future, to submit their nominations, within a framework of the parliamentarian and popular support, for the direct election of the president of the republic."
Perhaps the most telling part of Mubarak's speech, however, was this line:
"...this historical decisive moment is the fruit of economic stability which we enjoy."
You think Mubarak's actions are due to his wonderful benevolence, out of the goodness of his heart? Mubarak knows that in order for Egypt to continue receiving U.S. money, the status quo is not going to cut it. U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleeza Rice cancelled her trip to Egypt after Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour was jailed.
But those are not the only reasons.
It is also happening because Egyptians have witnessed the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan, Egyptians have witnessed the power of freedom, and they are now demanding a taste.
Mubarak is seeking reforms, because he has no choice. Egypt is much like the ungrateful teenager who refuses to do the chores but still expects an allowance. But no more. The parent, the U.S., after years of neglecting to require anything in return for the aid, has finally decided to put its foot down.
The conversation probably went something like this:
The old foreign policy calculus involved looking the other way when a regime like Egypt's abused the rights of its citizens. Afterall, what happens in Egypt, stays in Egypt. A nation has a sovereign right to govern its own people in whatever way it wishes, the old thinking went. Indeed, a member of Mubarak's administration recently echoed these sentiments when Dr. Rice expressed displeasure to Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit about Mr. Nour's incarceration. The New York Times:
"After the meeting, Mr. Gheit protested that Mr. Nour's arrest was an internal Egyptian matter, and Suleiman Awad, the spokesman for President Hosni Mubarak, said he rejected 'any foreign interference in Egypt's internal affairs.'"
In the past, Egypt could get away with such an argument. No longer, however. Beginning with President George W. Bush, the U.S. now links the way it treats other regimes with the way those regimes treat their citizens. Additionally, America can no longer afford to assume that what happens within the borders of a sovereign nation, stay within the borders of that sovereign nation (Does the name of Egyptian Mohammed Atta ring a bell?).
It is a good policy change. And it clearly is working.
The Pajama Hadin blog notes:
"Quite an amazing development indeed. Open elections! Secret Ballot! Freedom of the Press! Historic indeed. Let us hope (for Egypt, the Middle East, and the world) that Mubarak's commitment to this is as profound as the import of his proclamation."
Meanwhile, Captain's Quarters Blog has some worthwhile comments:
"Once again, we see the transformative power of democracy and the fulfillment of the so-called 'neocon' philosophy of security through democratization. Egypt has produced some of the most radical -- and dangerously Westernized -- terrorists of the past generation, including Ayman al-Zwahiri, al-Qaeda's number two under Osama bin Laden. With the ability to express political dissent through the ballot box instead of the bomb, Egypt's moves hold the promise of defusing one of the main intellectual producers of terror in the region....
Patrick Ruffini explains that "Egypt's Velvet Revolution" validates President Bush's comments leading up to the Iraq war:
"First Palestine. Then Iraq. Then Lebanon. And now Egypt. Not bad for a month's work....
Classiness To The Max From Around The Blogosphere.
In a post called "THE TRIUMPH OF THE EMPTY SUITS,"
Explains that Democrats need to think about nominating a candidate with some qualifications, for a change:
"I don't hate Hillary Clinton. But I do find her emblematic of a rather odd phenomenon going on in politics these days, especially among the Democrats....
Although, with regards to Hillary Clinton, how do we know it's not the opposite, that she is the reason for her husband's success? Republican underestimation of Hillary Clinton is not something WILLisms.com wants to be responsible for.
In a post called "Congressional Blogging: A Guide,"
Notes the emergence of blogging amongst elected officials, and offers answers to blog-skeptics, as well as a guide for blogging, answering the following questions:
"What if the Blog is Off-Message?
In a decade or so, the public will expect that every candidate and public official maintain a blog.
In a post titled, "THE CONSEQUENCES OF EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE,"
Makes the case that eminent domain expansion has broader consequences:
"There are not that many people who in their lifetimes will be in the position occupied by the homeowners in Kelo, though to be sure, it is vital to prevent eminent domain abuse when it comes to real property. But millions of Americans will have their lives directly and negatively impacted by the placement of additional barriers obstructing pharmaceutical research, development and distribution. Those millions of Americans cannot read stories discussing and advocating the taking of a patent for pharmaceutical products and be sanguine about it. And the policy chickens that come home to roost if such takings occur will leave no one in a happy frame of mind."
Property rights are a fundamental building block of a free society, and while eminent domain makes sense sometimes (especially, say, national security reasons, or for ambitious public works projects), but unlimited eminent domain should trouble Americans deeply.
Euro-Bush: Well, It Was Real, It Was Fun. But Was It Real Fun?
The President's European adventure has come to an end. The President is Euro-Bush no longer. Now he can get back to the work of Social Security reform, which, unfortunately, looks to be a tough task ahead.
The President met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in, appropriately enough, Bratislava, Slovakia. Bush pressed Putin on the issue of Russia's backpeddling human, civil, and political rights, but not too heavy-handedly.
Can you imagine John Kerry, or Al Gore, leaning on Vladimir Putin for his poor record on freedom and democracy? Either way, a veritable World's Fair of patronizing, pedantic haughtiness.
A few somewhat humorous moments from the Bush-Putin meeting:
First, a weird, rambling question from a reporter-
"Q First of all, I wanted to ask another question, but we have an interesting conversation now, therefore I'm going to ask about the following: It seems to me that you have nothing to disagree about. The regimes that are in place in Russia and the U.S. cannot be considered fuller democratic, especially when compared to some other countries of Europe, for example -- for example, The Netherlands. It seems to me, that as far as Russia is concerned, everything is clear, more or less. But as far as the U.S. is concerned, we could probably talk at length. I am referring to the great powers that have been assumed by the security services due to which the private lives of citizens are now being monitored by the state. This could be explained away by the consequences of September 11th, but this has nothing to do with democratic values. How could you comment on this? I suggest that you can probably agree -- you can probably shake hands and continue to be friends in future."
We'll just place one big [sic] after that whole question, and call it even, how about that?
The President gave a nice answer, succinctly explaining the U.S. Constitution and the system of checks and balances. If he had WILLisms.com handy on his PDA, he could have also explained that the U.S. has a much broader, much deeper, much longer tradition of democracy than the Dutch; the U.S., even post-Patriot Act, earns perfect scores from Freedom House.
Putin, however, delivered the punch-line, proving just how sharp and quick-witted the former Soviet KGB agent really is. Putin explained:
"You have cited a curious example -- The Netherlands. The Netherlands is a monarchy, after all."
The reporter's question sort of proves the effect of media bias. The reporter had probably read all kinds of articles in American and international media about how the U.S. is becoming some kind of police state under President Bush. If that was the reporter's only frame of reference, the question becomes less awkward, one could suppose.
But awkward nevertheless. And, the nerve of it, comparing Russia and the U.S. like that! The U.S. is the world's most long-enduring democracy. Russia is still recovering (with a significant relapse in the past year) from decades of occupation under the thumb of the Communist Party.
"Q To follow up on the issue of democratic institutions, President Bush recently stated that the press in Russia is not free. What is this lack of freedom all about? Your aides probably mentioned to you that our media, both electronic and our printed media -- full coverage of the manifestations and protests in our country. Our regional and national media often criticize the government institution. What about you? Why don't you talk a lot about violations of the rights of journalists in the United States, about the fact that some journalists have been fired? Or do you prefer to discuss this in private with your American colleague?"
This one made President Bush laugh, as it was another example of distorted media leading to distorted perception. The journalist must have read somewhere about Eason Jordan or, perhaps, Rathergate, and determined that freedom of the press in the U.S. is not as solid as previously thought, as if Bush personally fired those recalcitrant reporters for refusing to paint him in a positive light. The reporter's question also revealed a thorough lack of understanding of the First Amendment in the U.S., which has been the poster child for the manifesto of the greatest force for freedom in the past two centuries, the American Bill of Rights.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
The United States, with its First Amendment, is the supreme example in the history of the world with regards to freedom of the press, and that is no hyperbole; few other countries guarantee such broad freedom in law, fewer still guarantee it in practice. The President took his turn at smacking down an idiot reporter:
"PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know what journalists you're referring to. Any of you all still have your jobs? No, I -- look, I think it's important any viable democracy has got a free and active press. Obviously, if you're a member of the Russian press, you feel like the press is free. And that's -- feel that way? Well, that's good. (Laughter.) But I -- I talked to Vladimir about that. And he -- he wanted to know about our press. I said, nice bunch of folks. And he wanted to know about, as you mentioned, the subject of somebody getting fired. People do get fired in American press. They don't get fired by government, however. They get fired by their editors or they get fired by their producers, or they get fired by the owners of a particular outlet or network.
Ouch. One almost wonders if that journalist was planted there for comic relief, and/or to lob a softball at the President.
"For much of Europe, the idea that President Bush is the real and legitimate face of America came a few years late. But it has come, as has the realization that a hopeful era is dawning in the Middle East thanks to U.S. 'unilateralism' and force of arms. In this sense, the purpose of Mr. Bush's trip isn't to present himself anew to Europe. It is to allow European leaders--France's Jacques Chirac, Germany's Gerhard Schroeder and Russia's Vladimir Putin--to present themselves anew to Mr. Bush.
This is precisely on-target. Many Europeans felt that Bush had stumbled into his first term in office by some kind of fluke, and obviously America would come to its senses after one failed term. President Bush's record-breaking reelection victory, stunned many Europeans, but stunned them into the realization that, hey, this guy is for real, and he is going to be there for four more years. America, even, might be there, where Bush is, for longer than that.
The Wall Street Journal continues:
... Contrary to expectation a year ago (and with the qualified exception of Spain), the leaders who supported the war in Iraq have all been returned to office, while Messrs. Chirac, Putin and Schroeder languish in polls.
Again, dead on. This phenomenon is often underreported, but the policy of liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein has been confirmed at ballot box after ballot box, all around the world, not to mention Iraq and Afghanistan. A year ago, most counted Tony Blair out, yet he is likely to win reelection in the U.K.'s upcoming parliamentary elections.
In short, on Iraq, the international community agrees. France and Germany are on the outside of history, looking in.
More from The Wall Street Journal:
"Probably the most important component is that President Bush's vision of spreading democracy--of getting to the 'tipping point' where tyrannies start to crumble--seems not only to be working but also winning some unexpected converts. Just ask the Lebanese who are suddenly restive under Syrian occupation. As a result, European politicians are in a poorer position to lecture this President about the true ways of the world."
Indeed, many critics of the President's foreign policy like to fashion themselves as realists, deriding the President from the left as some kind of crazed right-wing neo-con crusader, or from the right as a crazed liberal hippie neo-con crusader. It doesn't get any more real than the volcano of freedom that is just beginning to gurgle in the Middle East.
Dick Morris describes the scene in Europe, explaining that, "It's a good time to be an American in Paris." Bush, Morris notes, "is going over the heads of the leftist European media and speaking directly to eastern and western Europe."
"The statesmen of Old Europe seem to have lost their way in the thicket of self-interest, while Bush is holding out a clarifying lantern of idealism and commitment to democracy."
The President seems to have enjoyed himself a great deal on his European tour. He seemed relaxed, free from the first-term pressures to meet or exceed expectations, confident that his vision for freedom in the world is working, assured that he is on the right side of history. All in all, a successful journey for the President.
UPDATE: Polipundit has more on Putin's confusion about American freedom of the press.
So does YoungPundit, noting this passage from a Time article:
"But when Bush talked about the Kremlin's crackdown on the media and explained that democracies require a free press, the Russian leader gave a rebuttal that left the President nonplussed. If the press was so free in the U.S., Putin asked, then why had those reporters at CBS lost their jobs? Bush was openmouthed. 'Putin thought we'd fired Dan Rather,' says a senior Administration official. 'It was like something out of 1984.'"
More on the subject, from Time:
"The Russians did not let the matter drop. Later, during the leaders' joint press conference, one of the questioners Putin called on asked Bush about the very same firings, a coincidence the White House assumed had been orchestrated. The odd episode reinforced the Administration's view that Putin's impressions of America are often based on urban myths fed to him by ill-informed aides. (At a past summit, according to Administration aides, Putin asked Bush whether it was true that chicken producers split their production into plants that serve the U.S. and lower-quality ones that process substandard chicken for Russia.) U.S. aides say that to help fight against this kind of misinformation, they are struggling to build relationships that go beyond Putin. 'We need to go deeper into the well into other levels of government,' explains an aide."
Putin may be sly, but he is also a product of his KGB days: paranoid and prone to conspiracy theories.
Rock The Vote + AARP = WAY LAME.
In a previous post, WILLisms.com noted that Rock the Vote has gone off the deep end, deviating far from its "non-partisan" status, becoming a mouthpiece for the far-left wing of the DNC, teaming up with other left-wing groups to maximize their power. They have dropped all pretense of open-mindedness, all illusion of fairness to both sides.
For example, Rock the Vote is single-mindedly and persistently trying to scare young people about a draft:
Before the election, Rock the Vote sent an email out to all of its email subscribers, telling them if they didn't vote the right way, they would be drafted. This had a clear and powerful effect on the youth vote, which had been trending toward Republicans, whipping people up into a panic over nothing.
Rock the Vote also has links on its website to This Is Rumor Control blog and Alliance for Security, two obviously affiliated far-left groups (although it is hard to tell just how they are organized).
Rock the Vote is even selling these t-shirts on his website:
If Rock the Vote really loved Social Security, they would not oppose reforming it. Keeping Social Security as-is is not even an option, as that would require massive benefit cuts and/or massive tax increases, guaranteed, down the line. Here is just one glorious example of Rock the Vote ridiculousness, completely misrepresenting the plan, from a post called "A solution that is worse than the problem" (are they now at least acknowledging there is a problem?):
"Proponents of the plan would be quick to retort that in exchange for reduced traditional Social Security benefits, privatized personal accounts will be available to supplement.
The inane movie references aside, this just distorts the facts so profoundly, probably on purpose. The personal retirement accounts would not resemble anything from the scenarios in Boiler Room or Wall Street. The accounts would resemble the Thrift Savings Plan accounts available to employees of the federal government (such as, member of Congress), which, even when losing money temporarily through recessions, over a ten-year period deliver, at worst, 5.45% rates of annual compounded interest (the "C" and "S" funds in the TSP offer nearly 12% returns).
Plus, unlike the movies cited by Rock the Vote, there would be no chance that an individual could throw his money after some zany stock idea and lose it all. None. The plans would be highly diversified, not tied to individual stocks (or even individual sectors). Temporary stock market downturns, temporary recessions, these things would have no bearing on the personal retirement accounts, which are in it for the long haul. Over the long run (let's call it 30 years), the market is always up, even through the period of the Great Depression.
The latest nonsense from Rock the Vote is the peddling of disingenuous polling data to try to create a false bandwagon effect, where otherwise disengaged people flock to the winning position. Rock the Vote, through the use of push-polling (an unethical and widely condemned practice of manipulation, or "rigging"), is trying to suggest that young people actually do not favor reform of Social Security afterall. Rock the Vote also uses anyone under 40 as its "youth" cohort, also deceptive.
Is it merely a coincidence that AARP, a group recently exposed (here and here) for peddling disingenuous polling data, has just recently joined forces with Rock the Vote? Is that merely suspicious, or are they operating from the same playbook?
Adam Doverspike, of Social Security Choice, explains:
"Rock The Vote, ostensibly a youth organization, has teamed up with AARP to oppose meaningful Social Security reform. The recently conducted a push poll that was meant to show youth opposed to PRAs. This contradicts most independent polling on the subject that shows big rifts between the old and the young on PRAs. Mr. Hederman of the Heritage Foundation disects the push poll technique used in this specific poll."
The Heritage Foundation goes into greater detail:
"Push-polling is the intellectually dishonest practice of conducting a survey in a way designed to produce a pre-determined result. Such polls follow up a neutrally worded question with more 'questions' that provide new information. The added information presents only one side of an argument and is designed to 'coach' or 'push' the respondent into giving the desired answer....
The Heritage article points out the notable absence of any information about what would happen to Social Security without any action. Interestingly enough, support for Social Security reform in the Rock the Vote poll was pretty durable, withstanding the barrage:
"...despite these loaded questions, a plurality of the Rock the Vote cohort still believed that investing in private equities is good for Social Security. Forty-seven percent of the 18-39 cohort responded that Social Security would be strengthened with the ability to invest part of our payroll taxes in the stock market. And half of the RTV cohort believes that investing in a private account would make up for benefits cuts. And this is after being told that private accounts are the financial equivalent of the 10 plagues....
"Hans Reimer says he wants Rock the Vote to become the 'AARP of our Generation.' Young Americans... deserve better."
Reform Thursday: Social Security- Chart Four.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.
Previous Reform Thursday graphics can be seen here:
Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.
LaRouchers Against Social Security Reform.
The LaRouchers are coming!
And this time, they're, typically, against Social Security reform.
Just who are the LaRouchers, and why do they matter?
Well, they shouldn't matter, as they are remarkably few in number and nearly bankrupt of mainstream ideas, yet they do matter precisely because they are perhaps the most persistent bunch of activists in the country, appearing regularly on college campuses, passing out absurd propaganda such as this, conning some into paying $15 or more for it:
Subtle, they are not.
For these dedicated warriors of the world of ideas, Lyndon LaRouche is their spiritual leader, his endurance an inspiration for his disciples. LaRouche has been predicting an economic meltdown ("The Great Crash Of 2004-2005 Is Here!") in the United States for decades, not based on any kind of expert analysis, but, rather, based exclusively on his idea that America needs a "physical economy." That is to say, the U.S. (government) needs to build and manufacture things, and the world needs to work on projects such as a land bridge from the Americas to Asia, from Europe to Africa.
LaRouche, prior to dropping out of the 2004 presidential race and endorsing John Kerry, developed an 8-figure campaign chest (that's more than 10 million dollars), including nearly $1.5 million in taxpayer-funded federal campaign subsidies (LaRouche has raked in, from taxpayers, at least a few times that amount over the years). For comparison, note that LaRouche's campaign war chest was larger than the combined campaign funds of minor party candidates Ralph Nader, Michael Badnarik, Michael Peroutka, and David Cobb. Throw in Democrats Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun, and LaRouche still had more campaign cash in 2004.
But why wasn't LaRouche allowed to debate the other Democrats, if he raised so much money and had so many staunch supporters?
Well, he is embarrassing. So are his supporters. And his poll numbers, despite robust financial and grassroots support, never reached into the single-digits. Elites on the left have effectively marginalized LaRouche, bizarrely enough, painting him as an ultra-conservative demagogue, preventing him from gaining support in primaries and caucuses. The New Republic magazine, in 1997, called LaRouche a "right-wing conspiratorialist." LaRouche, for the most part, however, is decidedly left-wing; he even came out recently in favor of a worldwide boycott of Wal-Mart. Perhaps he is so left-wing that his ideology mingles with right-wing, or vice-versa, but he is a stoic left-winger nonetheless. In the weird world of grotesque conspiracy theories, where left and right become meaningless, LaRouche thrives. If LaRouche, the FDR-loving socialist, seemed to sudden become an extreme right-winger, it is in the same pattern that America's arch-conspiracy theorist, Austin-based Alex Jones, decidedly right-wing during the Clinton administration, seemed to (but didn't, really) move sharply to the left after Republicans assumed power. Sometimes it's hard to tell which side someone is on when his ideology is so extreme.
The rantings of Jones and LaRouche are very similar: there is always some kind of Zionist banking conspiracy pulling the strings behind America's elected leaders; Arnold Schwarzenegger is an aspiring fascist dictator; and the government is always out to get both of them.
LaRouche is so ridiculous, he became a punchline on The Simpsons:
LaRouche and his apostles shrug off such parodies as vile insults, below them. Any critics of LaRouche, they argue reflexively, have their "heads in the gutter." The response is almost Pavlovian.
More on LaRouche's followers, from The Daily Cougar, last September:
"Supporters of former presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche distributed literature on campus Tuesday calling Vice President Dick Cheney a 'beast-man' and other Bush administration officials 'children of Satan.'
Think applying the label of "cult-like" on the LaRouche movement is excessive, or hyperbolic? Read the entire Post article first and then pass judgment.
LaRouche's troubling organization-building tactics aside, LaRouche's bizarre ideas have been adopted by some otherwise respectable liberals in recent years.
The Wall Street Journal noted all the way back in June of 2003, that LaRouche's rhetoric, although thoroughly repugnant, is not alone, exiled to the political wilderness. The New York Times and The New Yorker, making "common cause with Lyndon LaRouche," went "off the deep end" long ago. Indeed, since summer of 2003, the ideas of LaRouche, such as the notion that Israel is controlling U.S. policy through some kind of shadowy cabal of "neo-cons," have been somewhat mainstreamed.
The LaRouchers' latest diatribes focus on Social Security. But it wouldn't be a piece of LaRouche literature without a good old-fashioned Jewish scapegoat:
The pamphlet charges:
"George Shultz, the political Godfather of President George W. Bush and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is, like his role model Hjalmar Schacht, the kind of fascist who, one would imagine, arrogantly believes he will get off scot-free at the next Nuremberg war crimes tribunals....
It speaks for itself.
The LaRouchers are at once intensely hyper-intellectual and anti-intellectual, as one blogger explains:
"When I saw a fake human monkey with a cut-out of Dubya's face on a monkey being led around, I started to grow weary. When the fake monkey was invited to the stage to show off, I had to turn it off. How can anybody take what is being presented at the podium seriously when a fake monkey with a cut-out of Bush's face is being held hostage on a leash just off stage."
The latest charge from the LaRouchers is that Social Security reform was conceived by a Wall Street conspiracy:
"These wealthy financial institutions, and the oligarchical families that own them, have, in their own name and through cut-outs like the Mont Pelerin Society's Cato Institute, single-mindedly driven privatization: They have opened up their deep wallets to finance the multi-hundred-million-dollar-a-year campaign for privatization. They have directly crafted and specified the key financial features of the reports and the proposed legislation on privatization."
Dumb that down a bit, and you have exactly what the AFL-CIO is saying about Social Security reform. In fact, Team LaRouche and its arguments against reform are amazingly similar to the arguments of all the "mainstream" groups opposing reform. As noted before, WILLisms.com subscribes to various liberal interest group email lists, and here is just one example of a LaRouchian-type of comment over the past few weeks:
From February 15, 2005:
"Charles Schwab also is a member of the AWRS and of the Financial Services Roundtable. These and other front groups are raising millions for ad campaigns to sell Social Security privatization to the American public....
If, as the LaRouchers argue, "Wall Street" had been spending multi-hundreds of billions each year on Social Security reform, it would have happened long ago.
Unfortunately, "Wall Street" has actually been fairly neutral on Social Security reform, refusing to really take the plunge and come out strongly for personal accounts. While personal accounts would indeed lead to an infusion of cash into the stock market, it would be hundreds of millions of relatively small accounts, not exactly the kinds of customers "Wall Street" prefers. Fees for the personal accounts would likely be arbitrarily low (as mandated by the Congress), somewhere around 30 basis points, almost more hassle than they are worth, while the average fees "Wall Street" gets (1.1%) on larger accounts produce far more favorable and lucrative outcomes. The fees from Social Security personal accounts would likely comprise no more than 1-2% of "Wall Street's" total revenues. Furthermore, the Social Security personal accounts would receive greater scrutiny and regulation than other accounts, subject to the whims of future (perhaps more liberal) Congresses.
"Wall Street knows a river of cash when it sees it, and personal accounts right now look more like a stream."
Nonetheless, the LaRouchers persist, simultaneously irritating and entertaining college students all across the country with banners such as, "Bush Lied, Granny Died!"
Intellectually, LaRouche and his groupies oppose Social Security reform because: 1) it would lead to a greater actualization of the inherently free enterprise system, away from socialism; 2) America's economy is not physical enough right now, thus will soon crash; and 3) it would harm FDR's legacy.
For the LaRouchers, Social Security reform would be a repeat of the mistake Chile made with privatization more than two decades ago:
"The outcome of the same plan in Chile was devastating for the working population, but provided profit rates of 20-50% for the funds which managed the pensions..."
However, as WILLisms.com noted in a previous post, Chile's successful reforms of its pension system, while they could be tweaked and improved, are a model for the U.S. Also, the plan was only "devastating for the working population" if you redefine "devastating" as a "huge boon." Chile's personal accounts just plain work.
So, is it predictable that the LaRouchers would oppose Social Security reform? Definitely. It is also noteworthy, however, that LaRouche has been the intellectual godfather of the anti-reform movement. The LaRouchers, for all their absurdity, make that case best. When a recent LaRouche publication boasted that liberals in media and politics (and on liberal blogs) have largely adopted his vision and his rhetoric on the issue, it was not really all that off-the-mark:
"...when the New York Times of Jan. 27 ran a front-page expose´ of what a disaster Chile’s Social Security privatization has been, ABC News immediately noted that the Times was 'borrowing a page from Lyndon LaRouche.'"
While that is surely a badge of honor for the LaRouche movement, to be compared to America's former paper of record, the New York Times, somehow we don't think that was what ABC was getting at.
More from the LaRouchers, on how proud they are of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid:
"A key turning point came when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, after announcing on Feb. 1 that 'no Democrat' would support Bush’s attempt to steal Social Security, answered the President’s Feb. 2 State of the Union with a Rooseveltian proposal for a 'Marshall Plan for America, to rebuild America’s economic infrastructure.' Reid is preparing 'Marshall Plan' legislation."
Reid's discussion of a Marshall Plan for America is exactly the kind of tribute to the "physical economy" Lyndon LaRouche wanted to hear.
More boasting from the LaRouchians:
"LaRouche Strategy Working
Even LaRouche's hubris on this issue, thinking Bush has already been defeated, resembles "mainstream" liberals, who, as WILLisms.com previously pointed out, declared victory on the issue in late January.
On Social Security reform, LaRouche deserves much credit for leading the opposition, intellectually, and tactically. So, the next time you hear an argument against Social Security reform that seems a little more "off" than normal, just remember the power of the LaRouche movement within his party. When you witness Democrats going off the deep end with their conspiracy theories, know that LaRouche was probably already out in front on the issue.
Lebanon: Strange, Wonderful Goings-On
In the week following the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, some strange and wonderful things are happening in Lebanon. Freedom, perhaps, is on the march in Lebanon.
David Ignatius, writing in The Washington Post, examines "Beirut's Berlin Wall":
"The leader of this Lebanese intifada is Walid Jumblatt, the patriarch of the Druze Muslim community and, until recently, a man who accommodated Syria's occupation. But something snapped for Jumblatt last year, when the Syrians overruled the Lebanese constitution and forced the reelection of their front man in Lebanon, President Emile Lahoud. The old slogans about Arab nationalism turned to ashes in Jumblatt's mouth, and he and Hariri openly began to defy Damascus....
Daniel Pipes notes:
"For the first time in three decades, Lebanon now seems within reach of regaining its independence. 'I don't see how Syria can stay now,' observes Lebanon's former president, Amin Gemayel.
In the New York Post, Amir Taheri explains that "People Power Hits Lebanon":
"'This is the start of Lebanon's second war of independence,' says parliamentarian Marwan Hamade. 'We are determined that Hariri's tragic death be transformed into the rebirth of our nation.'
We are now seeing the beginnings of freedom in Lebanon; the Middle East is changing before our very eyes. These strange and wonderful happenings must be savored, for, while the flame of liberty is spreading, it has determined enemies. The march to a free and democratic Middle East has only just begun.
"...the only way to achieve victory over terrorists is to deprive them of state sponsorship from the kleptocracts and mullahcrats in Southwest Asia and North Africa. The only way to get that is to topple the tyrants and push for self-determination and freely elected governments, and it only takes one or two examples in the region before everyone there starts wondering when their turn will come.
Euro-Bush Brings Up China, European Integration.
In a previous WILLisms.com post (here), we gave the President high marks on his Europe trip thus far, but an incomplete on the subject of China, as nothing public had been uttered about that emerging superpower.
Now, the silence on the issue has been broken.
First, a smidgeon of background info:
The European Union has apparently decided, unfortunately, to remove its embargo on arms sales to China. The embargo dates back to the aftermath of June 1989's Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The President pressed the issue mostly in private, but responded candidly yesterday at NATO headquarters in Brussels. NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer expressed support for the "common values that bind us, in the past, in the present, and in the future."
Here is the entire exhange on China:
"Q Mr. President, European countries are talking about lifting their 15-year arms embargo on China. What would be the consequences of that? And could it be done in a way that would satisfy your concerns?
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, meanwhile, said, of lifting the ban:
"It will happen."
What's next, a Chinapean Union?
National Review, meanwhile, gives the President low marks on the issue of European integration:
"The project of a federal EU has long been driven, at least in part, by a profound, and remarkably virulent anti-Americanism, with deep roots in Vichy-era disdain for the sinister 'Anglo-Saxons' and their supposedly greedy and degenerate culture. Throw in the poisonous legacy of soixante-huitard radicalism, then add Europe's traditional suspicion of the free market, and it's easy to see how relations between Brussels and Washington were always going to be troubled. What's more, the creation of a large and powerful fortress Europe offered its politicians something else, the chance to return to the fun and games of great power politics....
Blogger Chrenkoff notes, however, that inclusion of Eastern Europe into Europe may prevent some of the ill effects of a Franco-German dominated E.U. (he also notes in the same post that Russia has as many spies in the U.S.A. now than it did under the Soviet Union, so it's worth reading):
"Keeping the European Union in check: The Eurocrats must be starting to regret the admission of the new members to the EU. The uncouth newcomers are rather less well disposed towards statism and trendy leftyism than their Western betters and are already shaking the comfortable Brussels status quo. This from the Czechs:
One can only hope. It is also possible, however, that Eastern European nations may be swept away by "the mania," the anti-American mania that dominates much of France's political culture. As Europe integrates further, it is not out of the question that those nations formerly behind the Iron Curtain, nations currently filled with grateful Americaphiles, appreciative of the efforts and ideology of the United States during and after the Cold War, will move toward a feeling of rivalry (and even possibly antagonism) against the U.S.
Hopefully, Chrenkoff is correct, and the Eastern European nations, with their freer markets and more pro-American attitudes, will rub off on the rest of Europe. Unfortunately, the U.K. seems to be missing a prime opportunity to lead a sort of pro-U.S. alliance within the E.U., which could keep France and Germany in line.
Congressional Ideology Ratings.
He took the most recent ratings from the ACU (American Conservative Union), the National Journal, and the ADA (Americans for Democratic Action), forming an index of just how conservative or liberal members of Congress are.
Below -70 = lunatic fringe left
0 to 50 = somewhat moderate
110 to 140 = adequate conservative
Most Conservative (tie)-
Others 180 and above:
Others -90 and below:
Top 5 Liberal State Delegations-
Texas has the 20th most conservative delegation.
176 (90/91/5) Mark Kennedy (R) MN-06
167 (84/88/5) John Kline (R) MN-02
146 (91/65/10) Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) TX
137 (80/72/15) Elizabeth Dole (R) NC
111 (84/62/35) John McCain (R) AZ
-84 (2/14/100) Nancy Pelosi (D) CA-08
-76 (5/4/85) John Kerry (D) MA
Site News: Listed On Blogshares.
Also, WILLisms.com will soon have a ultra-classy redesigned look. Stay tuned, because it will be way awesome.
Mas Classiness From Other Blogs.
Examines the case before the Supreme Court Kelo v. New London, regarding eminent domain in a post titled "Will Leviathan Prevail?"
"The Supreme Court has held that private property can be seized via eminent domain as part of an urban renewal project when the property is blighted, a loophole that local authorities have greatly abused to seize private property. Yet, in this case, the government doesn't even bother trying to hide behind that fig leaf. They assert baldly the power to seize private homes because they think some other user can put them to a higher tax generating use. Except, in this case, they don't even know what the land will be used to do!
Reports that the arguments on behalf of property rights did not go swimmingly, in a post titled "Marty Lederman Reports from Today's Oral Arguments."
"...based on the impression left by the oral arguments, the government-side is going to win today's property rights cases overwhelmingly."
He notes that post-election fundraising has gone much better for Republicans than Democrats, in a post titled, "IF MONEY IS THE MOTHER'S MILK OF POLITICS . . . (Then Republicans are calcium-fortified)"
"...when your party has the Presidency, the President can serve as the Fundraiser-in-Chief and augment his/her party's ability to fill its coffers. But I didn't expect the Republican advantage to be this big. After all, I thought that all of the rage and anger on the Democratic side was supposed to help the port side raise more cash than it had in the past.
Pokes fun at Canada for sending between two and three dozen soldiers to Iraq, in a post titled "Our Friends Up North."
"Wow. 30 soldiers.
Whither The Female Bloggers?
In the course of reading blogs, it becomes readily apparent that blogging is perhaps the most male-dominated "industry" in America right now.
Is there a gender gap in blogging?
The Pew Research Center recently studied the demographics of blogging, finding that 57% of blog creators are male (the study findings, found here, are in .pdf format).
In the early days of the internet, far more men than women were online, but women rapidly narrowed the gap in the late 1990s. Some studies around the turn of the century even declared that more women than men are on the internet. However, the latest research shows that 61% of men and 58% of women use the internet.
Are women just less interested in politics?
According to the survey research, on the internet, at least, apparently so.
Examining the Pew data yields these findings:
In summer of 2000:
In summer of 2004:
Also in summer of 2004:
In summer of 2004:
In February 2004:
Meanwhile, however, more women than men use the internet for shoppping and other activities.
So there are signigicant gender differences.
Kevin Drum, of the Political Animal blog, sparked much of this discussion, noting that only 10% of the most popular blogs are written by women:
"...I'll refrain from speculating on deep causes — it might be social, cultural, genetic, or Martian mind rays for all I know — but I imagine that the fundamental viciousness and self aggrandizement inherent in opinion writing turns off a lot of women."
Female blogger LaShawn Barber finds it "ironic" that Mr. Drum would complain about a lack of women bloggers, then fail to link to her blog on the subject.
Female blogger Lorie Byrd, of the group blog Polipundit.com, has this to say about the subject:
"I see no bias against female bloggers. I would even say that in the future, it could even be an advantage to be a female blogger because they are currently not quite as common as male bloggers are. We could enjoy something of a novelty factor, at least until we overtake the men. (Did I just write that? I may have just spoiled the secret conspiracy of blogging chicks to take over the blogosphere. Sorry, sister bloggers.)
Female blogger Betsy Newmark says it shouldn't matter:
"I just don't think that way of who's a woman and who's not. Who gives a flip. It's the content that matters, not the chromosomes. That's one of the many reasons that I think Susan Estrich is silly to be so obsessed with counting up the numbers of women on the LA Times opinion pages. Like Kevin Drum, I have no speculation on why there are fewer top women bloggers. I just don't care."
John Hawkins puts it succinctly:
"Women on the whole are less interested in politics than men, therefore less women create blogs, thus the female talent pool in the blogosphere is smaller than the male pool, which leads to the dearth of 'A-List' female bloggers.
Outside the Beltway blog notes an interesting (probably unscientific) phenomenon:
"...more interesting than the overall male/female gap, though, is the ideological one. As Kevin notes, the two most popular female bloggers are conservatives. So are are four of the top six (Catalano and McArdle are libertarian moreso than conservative, but they both supported the Iraq War and President Bush's re-election, so we'll count them for our purposes). Since American women are far more apt to vote Democrat than their male counterparts, this is rather surprising."
The Sundries Shack opines:
"...women are less inclined than men to grab a megaphone and shout their opinions to the rest of the world. That may be because of nature, it may be necause of nurture, or it may be, as I suspect, a combination of both.
Another female blogger that gets a lot of attention, especially in the mainstream media, is "wonkette" Anna Marie Cox. Her blog is full of raunchy political gossip, and her style is profoundly modern-feminine.
"It’s funny how there have been some posts in the blogosphere saying that the political blogosphere was a boys club that discriminated against women, as evidenced by how few politics bloggers were women. Boy were they completely off the mark. It’s ten times easier for a woman’s blog to become popular."
WILLisms.com tends to believe there is a lot of room for women in the world of blogging. However, the world of blogs is competitive, sometimes cutthroat, and it sometimes takes stamina to keep up.
But we can also apply something from the way men and women respond to political surveys and focus groups. Men tend to give answers more quickly to opinion questions; men also tend to always have an answer for every opinion. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to take their time in answering opinion questions, often deciding they "don't know." In many ways, the blogosphere is a big focus group.
In blogging, being first is sometimes more important than being best. This very post, for example, is probably about 2 days too late to get much play in the blogosphere, as people have already moved on to other, bigger, better topics.
Blogging is about frantic deadlines. Women, generally, are not.
By the time women have formed a well-developed answer they are comfortable with, it is too late to post about it. Meanwhile, men have answers for everything.
It starts early, too. Little boys are more willing (and faster) to raise their hands and answer questions than little girls.
Later in life, men are inherently more willing to blurt out an answer than women in a group setting. The same goes for blogging, the ultimate group setting.
This is all from political science and social science research.
Clearly there is a gender gap, but it probably has less to do with sexism or chauvinism (such as male bloggers refusing to read or acknowledge female bloggers) than with genetics and self-selection. There is plenty of room for women in the game of blogging, but it's likely that women just aren't as interested as men in playing.
[That's an urban phrase, for those of you wondering why on earth it's supposed to be funny.]
Grading Euro-Bush Thus Far.
So how is the President doing thus far?
"You know, on this journey to Europe I follow in some large footsteps. More than two centuries ago, Benjamin Franklin arrived on this continent to great acclaim. An observer wrote, "His reputation was more universal than Leibnitz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire, and his character more beloved and esteemed than any or all of them." The observer went on to say, "There was scarcely a peasant or a citizen who did not consider him as a friend to human kind." I have been hoping for a similar reception -- (laughter) -- but Secretary Rice told me I should be a realist. (Laughter.)"
On Iran, one liberal organization wanted Bush to bring the "carrot of aid to the table." This, as we noted before, would have been a mistake. Instead, Bush declared that, while war is not out of the question, it is not America's goal:
"In Iran, the free world shares a common goal: For the sake of peace, the Iranian regime must end its support for terrorism, and must not develop nuclear weapons. (Applause.) In safeguarding the security of free nations, no option can be taken permanently off the table. Iran, however, is different from Iraq. We're in the early stages of diplomacy. The United States is a member of the IAEA Board of Governors, which has taken the lead on this issue. We're working closely with Britain, France and Germany as they oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions, and as they insist that Tehran comply with international law. The results of this approach now depend largely on Iran. We also look for Iran to finally deliver on promised reform. The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people, and respect their rights, and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them."
Iran is a unique situation, and unlike Iraq or North Korea, its internal demographics favor the U.S. over the long run. With its gigantic generation of babies born in the late 1970s and early 1980s (at the urging of the Islamic revolution) now coming of age and rejecting theocracy, Iran's younger generation may demand greater liberty (and less hostility to the West) in the coming years.
The President, on Russia, spoke more boldly and publicly than some expected, rather than glossing over the increasingly troubling steps of Putin's government. :
"I also believe that Russia's future lies within the family of Europe and the transatlantic community. America supports WTO membership for Russia, because meeting WTO standards will strengthen the gains of freedom and prosperity in that country. Yet, for Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law. We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power, and the rule of law -- and the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia. (Applause.)"
The President even commented on climate change, offering America's alternative to Kyoto:
"Our alliance is determined to show good stewardship of the earth -- and that requires addressing the serious, long-term challenge of global climate change. All of us expressed our views on the Kyoto protocol -- and now we must work together on the way forward. Emerging technologies such as hydrogen-powered vehicles, electricity from renewable energy sources, clean coal technology, will encourage economic growth that is environmentally responsible. By researching, by developing, by promoting new technologies across the world, all nations, including the developing countries can advance economically, while slowing the growth in global greenhouse gases and avoid pollutants that undermines public health. All of us can use the power of human ingenuity to improve the environment for generations to come."
The President essentially threw this out there to get the eco-crazy Europeans off his back. Kyoto, President Bush understands, is flawed, because it would slow down growth in developed nations with negative sanctions, while heavily-polluting developing nations such as China would face no restrictions.
The best way to improve the environment is not by slowing down the smartest kids in class so the slower kids can catch up. Rather, the President believes rapid economic growth (the kind Kyoto would clamp down upon) in post-industrial nations like the U.S. can and will lead to newer, cleaner technologies that all nations can use.
This is the American way. Incentives and research dollars, rather than bureaucratic punishments and burdensome regulations, are the way to achive a healthier environment and increasingly better quality of life for all.
On all these issues, the President receives high marks. In his Brussels speech, however, President Bush said nothing of China, so he gets an incomplete on that one.
He gets bonus points, however, and lots of them, for this:
"Our shared commitment to democratic progress is being tested in Lebanon -- a once-thriving country that now suffers under the influence of an oppressive neighbor. Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq, and must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Syria must also end its occupation of Lebanon. (Applause.)
Then, we see this:
Fantastic beginning. Now let's see the rest.
Another Classiness Roundup From Blogs.
In "Cue the Jerky Boys,"
Notes the way unclassiness of the goings-on with Social Security anti-reform advocacy phone calls:
"So who is behind all of this? No one knows, but it should be kind of hard to take scare tactics seriously when those responsible for them don't even have the courage to own up to using the tactics."
Notes that Democrat Maurice Hinchey of New York is advancing one of the crazier conspiracy theories around:
"...the fake CBS memos were planted by Karl Rove to discredit Dan Rather, and divert attention from President Bush’s 'draft dodging.'"
In "Rethinking the surplus,"
Notes (including a great chart) that the federal budget surplus in the late 1990s was not used appropriately:
"'The Peace Dividend' was not invested in the enhancement of future peace prospects; instead, it was invested in creating a political gold mine: 'The Surplus'—which, in my opinion, would be more aptly named 'The National Security Disinvestment.'"
Explains that the President's rhetorical tributes to liberty were not a fleeting inaugural fad:
"Bush intends on expanding the reach of democracy during his term and setting the stage for an eventual democratic revolution in Southwest Asia in order to eliminate the root cause of terrorism. For those who doubt his will to pursue this strategy, be prepared for continual surprise during his second term."
Nobel Laureate Favors Social Security Reform.
Gary Becker, Nobel laureate in economics, University of Chicago professor, senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, makes "A Political Case for Social Security Reform," explaining that personal accounts "would protect retirees from the government interference."
"Republicans and Democrats are arguing passionately about the future of Social Security, and the argument, at its core, is about privatization. It is true, as some critics observe, that there is no magical gain in privatizing Social Security, since all systems have to provide incomes for retired persons. By that token, however, there's no gain in privatizing a government steel plant either, since steel still has to be produced, too. Yet there are very good reasons--with roots in political economy--to privatize steel. And as with steel (and the like), there are excellent reasons for a privatized individual-account Social Security system."
Becker, arguing that "privatization helps to separate saving for retirement from interest-group politics, from taxation, and from government spending," believes the philosophical/political case for reform is far more persuasive than the pragmatic/economic case:
"So the really strong arguments for privatization are that they reduce the role of government in determining retirement ages and incomes, and improve government accounting of revenues and spending obligations. All the other issues are really diversions, because neither advocates nor opponents of privatizing Social Security generally answer the most meaningful question: Is there as strong a political economy case for eliminating government management of the retirement industry as there is for eliminating its management of most other industries?
Happy Presidents Day.
Liberalism: Is There Anything Left?
In the past, WILLisms.com has explored the idea of liberalism, noting that even prominent liberals today have no idea how to articulate what they stand for. The American Prospect magazine even resorted to taking suggestions from readers on what "liberalism" means.
If even elite liberals need help defining liberalism, liberalism is in serious trouble.
Martin Peretz, in The New Republic, explores the downfall of liberalism in America.
On how far conservatives have come:
"...it was John Kenneth Galbraith, speaking in the early 1960s, the high point of post-New Deal liberalism, who pronounced conservatism dead. Conservatism, he said, was "bookless," a characteristic Galbraithian, which is to say Olympian, verdict. Without books, there are no ideas. And it is true: American conservatism was, at the time, a congeries of cranky prejudices, a closed church with an archaic doctrine proclaimed by spoiled swells."
For Republicans, it took nominating a true conservative, Barry Goldwater, to ignite what is now the prevailing political philosophy in America. Although Goldwater was demolished at the polls in 1964 by liberal Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson, Goldwater's candidacy paved the way for Ronald Reagan 16 years later, and George W. Bush today. Once liberalism was given its fair shake, once the New Deal and the Great Society programs proved themselves, it became clear that liberalism was, frankly, not so great. In 2005, there is still a long way to go before conservative ideas dominate the policy landscape, as liberalism remains so entrenched in the bureaucracy.
On how far liberals have fallen:
"At this point in history, it is liberalism upon which such judgments are rendered. And understandably so. It is liberalism that is now bookless and dying....
Indeed, just look at the comments liberals made following the release of President Bush's new budget, which cuts discretionary spending by 1%. For liberals, Bush was "gutting" programs, hurting the poor, destroying the environment, and otherwise ruining the country. This, from the same folks who complain about deficits, as if they are some kind of right-wing conspiracy, exclusively the fault of the current President. For liberals, cutting spending is never an acceptable way to deal with deficits. Only raising taxes is halal (kosher).
On the obsession of liberals with the 1960s:
"One of the tropes that trips off the tongues of American liberals is the civil rights theme of the '60s. Another is that U.S. power is dangerous to others and dangerous to us. This is also a reprise from the '60s, the late '60s. Virtue returns, it seems, merely by mouthing the words."
President Clinton, for all his political successes, never reinvigorated liberalism during his tenure. His first major political setback in office was his attempt to socialize medicine; he learned quickly that the American people are sick of the failures of liberalism.
"...in the Democratic Party, among liberals, the usual hustlers are still cheered. Jesse Jackson is still paid off, mostly not to make trouble. The biggest insult to our black fellow citizens was the deference paid to Al Sharpton during the campaign. Early in the race, it was clear that he--like Carol Moseley Braun and Dennis Kucinich--was not a serious candidate. Yet he was treated as if he just might take the oath of office at the Capitol on January 20. In the end, he won only a handful of delegates. But he was there, speaking in near-prime time to the Democratic convention. Sharpton is an inciter of racial conflict. To him can be debited the fraudulent and dehumanizing scandal around Tawana Brawley (conflating scatology and sex), the Crown Heights violence between Jews and blacks, a fire in Harlem, the protests around a Korean grocery store in Brooklyn, and on and on. Yet the liberal press treats Sharpton as a genuine leader, even a moral one, the trickster as party statesman."
In the 1960s, Democrats fought on behalf of African-Americans, because African-Americans largely could not fight on their own. Their cause was noble. Their cause was just. Although more Republicans than Democrats voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act [Republicans voted 27-6 in the Senate (82%); 138-34 in the House (80%). Democrats voted 46-21 in the Senate (69%); 152-96 in the House (61%).], Democrats earned a monopoly on black voters for a generation.
But what has that 90+% support, in election after election, earned African-Americans?
As time passes, less and less.
African-Americans might want to start asking the question, "Democrats, what have you done for us lately."
On the true, Marxist nature of liberalism:
"Pose this question at an Upper West Side dinner party: What was worse, Nazism or Communism? Surely, the answer will be Nazism ... because Communism had an ideal of the good. This, despite the fact that communist revolutions and communist regimes murdered ever so many more millions of innocents and transformed the yearning of many idealists for equality into the brutal assertion of evil, a boot stamping on the human face forever."
Nazism was one of the worst intellectual inventions in the history of the world. But Communism killed far more people. While liberals frequently try to associate conservatives and Republicans with Hitler, or fascism, or Nazism, in 2005, no conservatives espouse anything resembling Nazism. Meanwhile, communism still has its prominent apologists within the liberal movement.
On American power and liberal aversion/hostility to its use on behalf of good against evil:
"Peter Beinart has argued, also in these pages ('A Fighting Faith,' December 13, 2004), the case for a vast national and international mobilization against Islamic fanaticism and Arab terrorism. It is typologically the same people who wanted the United States to let communism triumph--in postwar Italy and Greece, in mid-cold war France and late-cold war Portugal--who object to U.S. efforts right now in the Middle East. You hear the schadenfreude in their voices--you read it in their words--at our troubles in Iraq. For months, liberals have been peddling one disaster scenario after another, one contradictory fact somehow reinforcing another, hoping now against hope that their gloomy visions will come true."
Liberalism, at this point, without shaking itself loose from its current path, can only hope for bad news. For liberals, bad news is good news, while American successes are inimical to political success.
So, is liberalism dead and decaying? Probably not. Liberals will likely return, reinvigorated, repackaged. And liberalism will have to operate under different constraints, with more respect for the free market, less cynicism about American power. Liberals will have to be less Marxist, less pessimistic, and less devoted to decades-old (and even centuries-old), underperforming government programs. Liberals must rethink their orthodoxies, allowing liberalism to be injected with new ideas.
And this is the greatest irony. Look up "liberal" in the dictionary:
"-Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
In 2005, liberals seem far more limited to established, traditional, orthodox attitudes, views, and dogmas than Republicans in power today. Liberals today are against proposals for reform, closed to most new ideas for progress, and tolerant only of themselves.
Euro-Bush, Part Two.
He'll be in Europe for nearly the entire week.
The International Herald Tribune comments:
"The choreography of the visit is, indeed, impressive. Bush will spend quality time with three active opponents of the war in Iraq: France's Jacques Chirac, Germany's Gerhard Schröder and Russia's Vladimir Putin, and he will visit both the European Council and the European Commission."
The Heritage Foundation has more advice for the President:
"The goals of President Bush’s visit to Europe should be to:
One wonders if Dr. Rice's recent successful Europe visit was enough to butter up the Europeans, or if Bush will complete the good-cop/bad-cop routine. Perhaps it's more of a good-cop/good-cop routine. Butter them up, make them expect the hammer, but then kill them with even more kindness.
The left-wing Center for American Progress, meanwhile, offers this advice for the President (it's actually relatively decent advice, notwithstanding a couple of expected-but-weak cheap shots):
"In meetings with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and French President Jacques Chirac, the president should express a willingness to engage the United States more directly in negotiations with Iran, bringing the stick of force and carrot of aid to the table."
Speaking of the good-cop/bad-cop routine, the U.S. should NOT be offering Iran any carrots. Meanwhile, Europe ought to be less belligerently anti-war, at least allowing force on the table as an option.
"President Bush should challenge Putin – both publicly and privately – to improve his democratic record, beginning with halting the harassment of civil society organizations, including those receiving support from the U.S.-government funded National Endowment for Democracy."
Absolutely. The President, likely, will do just this, particularly privately. Putin's Russia has actually taken a step back in the past year on Freedom House's Freedom in the World, 2005, being downgraded to "not free" amidst increased political restrictions.
On Climate Change-
"Given the president's demonstrated intransigence on signing the Kyoto Protocol, in meeting with Blair, President Bush should at a minimum announce that he will support the bipartisan McCain-Lieberman bill, and explore potential linkages between U.S. and EU emissions trading markets."
America's opposition to the Kyoto protocols on global warming is cited quite often by Europe as proof that America is backward and horrible. Tony Blair, in particular, takes a lot of flak in Europe for not being able to budge Bush on the issue. The President ought to offer some kind of rhetorical tribute to the environmental movement, if only to throw a bone to Tony "T-Bone" Blair, but ultimately, the U.S. should not adopt Kyoto just to win friends in Europe.
While European leaders sometimes view the U.S. as their rotten child that somehow deviated from the enlightenment, the better analogy is of Europe as the elderly parent, living off generous support from the successful and responsible child, America. How has Europe sometimes repaid that support? Ingratitude. Senility. Hostility. Jealousy.
Signing Kyoto (it's too late for that now, really) for the sake of pleasing Europe would not serve much of a purpose. Europe would likely soon forget about it, anyway, in its state of mind, so what's the point?
"When meeting with EU leaders, the president should express his continuing opposition to lifting the embargo, and urge Europe to refrain from doing so at least until China ratifies the U.N. Covenant on Political and Civil Rights. If lifted, the president should press the Europeans to implement a stringent, legally-binding Code of Conduct to replace the embargo."
Absolutely. The internal conduct of regimes is no longer irrelevant to geopolitics. The U.S. must get Europe on the side of linking how China treats its own citizens with how the world treats China. That's not meddling. That's in the world's best interests. Stability for the sake of stability, at the expense of liberty, is fleeting; short-term stability is bought at the price of long-term peace. The transformational power of freedom is awesome, and it leads to peace over the long run. The President believes this. He will push Europe on this point.
The National Journal has more, in a great article WILLisms.com highly recommends:
"The Bush administration, in gambling that it can successfully change its approach to alliance relations, seems once again to be borrowing a page from the playbook of Ronald Reagan. The Great Communicator greatly riled European allies with his early confrontational approach to the Soviet Union, only to win them over in his second term by encouraging 'glasnost' and securing historic arms control agreements with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Good luck, Mr. President. It's a lot on your plate.
Euro-Bush: A Preview.
Gerard Baker, in The Weekly Standard, previews President Bush's European trip next week. It ought to be a fun time for everyone:
"In the endless theorizing about the transatlantic relationship, it is tempting to dismiss Europe as irrelevant, a nineteenth-century superpower in a 21st-century world.
"1. Get a job."
The point of Bush's trip is not to rub his successes in their faces; rather, he seeks to mend fences.
We'll see how it goes.
Yet More Classiness From Other Blogs.
Examines whether or not:
"But if I were a left-of-center Pej, I would be worried about all of the lost time when it came to implementing my ideas and ideology. If you don't want to think of liberalism as being 'dead,' that's fine. Think of it instead as being your star basketball player and in the kind of foul trouble that limits his play for a couple of quarters. Think of all the points you could have scored if said star basketball player were in the game, or all the points you could have prevented the other side from scoring."
Looks at the non-controversy over Brit Hume's reporting:
"Though the lefty blogger interpretation by lefty bloggers that Hume's implication is misleading is reasonable, and the final piece of legislation was more similar to today's Social Security than Bush's proposed changes, Hume's specific mention was, in fact, a 100% accurate recitation of FDR's stated intent for Social Security."
On the new liberal debate strategy:
"For those of you still clinging to hope the Democratic party can ever again represent the mainstream, do you give up yet?"
Notes that some Democrats are really taking this "count every vote" thing a little too far:
"In what must be the gravitational pull of leftist politics, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the erstwhile junior Senator of New York and all-but-certain Demoratic Party nominee for a presidential run in 2008, forgot herself (and her recent moves to the center) and has come out early in support of ex-felons! Yes! Ex-felons."
President Bush Signs Class Action Reform Into Law.
WILLisms.com noted yesterday that class action reform passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
First, President Bush commented on how class-action lawsuits are useful:
"Class-actions can serve a valuable purpose in our legal system. They allow numerous victims of the same wrong-doing to merge their claims into a single lawsuit. When used properly, class-actions make the legal system more efficient and help guarantee that injured people receive proper compensation. That is an important principle of justice. So the bill I sign today maintains every victim's right to seek justice, and ensures that wrong-doers are held to account."
But their misuse has also contributed to the overly litigious nature of American society:
"Class-actions can also be manipulated for personal gain. Lawyers who represent plaintiffs from multiple states can shop around for the state court where they expect to win the most money. A few weeks ago, I visited Madison County, Illinois, where juries have earned a reputation for awarding large verdicts. The number of class-actions filed in Madison County has gone from two in 1998 to 82 in 2004 -- even though the vast majority of the defendants named in those suits are not from Madison County. Trial lawyers have already filed 24 class-actions in Madison County this year. We're in February. (Laughter.) Including 20 in the past week -- after Congress made it clear their chance to exploit the class-action system would soon be gone.
The most important reason for tort reform is this:
"Overall, junk lawsuits have driven the total cost of America's tort system to more than $240 billion a year, greater than any other major industrialized nation. It creates a needless disadvantage for America's workers and businesses in a global economy, imposes unfair costs on job creators, and raises prices to consumers."
Indeed, the steps the United States takes now will determine how effective America can remain in the increasingly-integrated global economy over the long-term. If America is not a good place to do business, could you blame companies for wanting to move overseas?
This law will help the U.S. bring down the burdensome cost of litigation in this country. Next up, medical liability reform and asbestos reform.
Texas Poll: Senator Hutchison > Governor Perry
With the 2006 primaries just around the corner, and Republican Governor Rick Perry seeking reelection, the race for Governor is getting interesting. No, there is no insurgent Democrat threatening Perry. In fact, it would take a miracle, or a major scandal, for any Democrat to win any state-wide race in Texas in 2006, let alone the race for President Bush's old gig.
Also adding to the equation is Rick Perry's relative popularity. 51% of Texans, including 73% of Republicans, approve of the way the Governor is handling his job (the Burnt Orange Report notes this is the highest mark for Perry in three years). Perry also has significant built-in, devoted Aggie support, because he was a Yell Leader at Texas A&M University more than 30 years ago.
Perry, who served as Lt. Governor under then-Governor Bush, also has a powerful and effective fundraising network and has been a strong supporter of lower taxes.
So why on earth would Perry be vulnerable, even a little bit, in 2006?
Well, before 2002, Perry's approval rating was atmospheric. However, after Democrat Tony Sanchez poured $100 million of his own money into the uber-bitter 2002 gubernatorial race, the shine came off Rick Perry. The two, waging total war, lobbed nuclear bombs back and forth, both ending up more negative in the process.
But Perry survived, defeating Sanchez by 18%.
So what else could make Perry vulnerable?
This past year, Rick Perry declared, regarding the state's school finance system:
"We will fix Robin Hood, and it will be gone forever."
Unfortunately, a judge ruled the fix unconstitutional, and now the Governor must find a solution that keeps Robin Hood intact. In the meantime, the system is in crisis, and Perry is taking much of the blame in the court of public opinion (although his dispproval rating is only 33%).
The primary reason Rick Perry, an otherwise popular and (arguably) effective leader, is vulnerable: Kay Bailey Hutchison.
She's a juggernaut. Texans love her. And, similar to Perry's Aggie experience, she was a Texas Longhorn cheerleader. Orange and white cheerleaders simply beat maroon yell leaders, any day of the week.
It's not even fair to compare.
Kay Bailey Hutchison has had her eye on the Governor's mansion for some time, but she has yet to announce her intentions for 2006. If Hutchison decides she wants the job, it's hers.
The Houston Chronicle reports:
Throwing even more of a wrench into the equation is "one tough grandma," Carole Keeton Strayhorn (formerly Rylander, formerly McClellan). Strayhorn is far more open about her intentions, seizing every opportunity she can to criticize Rick Perry. If Hutchison opts out of the 2006 gubernatorial race, the potential primary matchup between Perry and Strayhorn could be messy, but Perry would likely emerge victorious.
It should be an interesting race to watch. Right now the top contender for the Democrats is former U.S. Representative Chris Bell, who lost his primary race to Al Green by more than 35 points. Bell, it should be noted, was cited for numerous ethics violations by the House ethics panel for his fanatical pursuit against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The panel determined that Bell's language in his complaint against DeLay was "excessive" and "inflammatory," and that he had made "exaggerated charges... in an attempt to attract publicity and, hence, a political advantage."
Thus, Bell (and any other Democrat for that matter) has essentially no chance at winning the Governor's race in 2006.
WILLisms.com will follow this story as events warrant coverage, so stay tuned.
More International Experience With Social Security Reform.
Opponents of Social Security reform frequently attempt to bring up examples of market reforms in other countries as evidence that the U.S. should NOT reform its Social Security plan. Unfortunately for them, the facts do not square with their claims. In reality, the concept of personal accounts is a winner, but it is indeed true that peripheral elements of a policy can harm the overall efficiency of the reform. The United States can learn a lot from reform experiences in other countries, avoiding pitfalls while focusing on what works. And personal accounts work.
A good example of reform that worked (but could be tweaked and refined for American consumption) is Chile, a country WILLisms.com profiled in a previous post. Chile is one such country those against Social Security reform point to as proof that personal accounts are bad, despite the stunning and unequivocal successes of the Chilean reforms.
How do they get away with making such blatantly erroneous claims? Well, because they can get away with making such blatantly erroneous claims. Very few Americans are able to call them on it. Pension systems in the United States are hard enough to understand as it is, so adding the international layer almost guarantees Americans will not have the tools to spot misleading or patently untrue facts.
One blogger posts this tidbit from the Economist article:
"However, in both Sweden and Australia, as in Chile, the new accounts are mandatory, while in America they will be voluntary. To find out how voluntary accounts have worked, Americans need to look at Britain, where Margaret Thatcher introduced them in 1988.
Indeed, the experiences in the U.K. with Thatcher's highly successful market reforms are almost compulsively cited by reform critics as grounds for inaction. While Britain's pension system underwent some turmoil, nothing was wrong with the system itself; the problems Britain experienced were totally unrelated to the reform, as the Economist explains:
"To be sure, pensions were mis-sold in the late 1980s and early 1990s: the bill for putting things right was £12 billion ($22 billion). But the mis-selling was out of employers' defined-benefit plans, not out of the state system. Many people were lured away from generous employers' plans into funded individual pensions when they would have been better off staying with their employers' schemes. 'Mis-selling was not about people being sold private pensions when state pensions would have been better for them,' says Philip Booth, the editorial director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank.
In other words, what happened in Britain 1) was not because of the personal accounts, and 2) could not happen in the United States.
"So what's the bottom line? According to the Economist, 'The international experience isn't as scary as the Democrats imply.' And there are good reasons to believe that reform here could be even better."
Finally, just a reminder of something WILLisms.com noted previously: how widespread personal accounts are becoming around the globe:
"Currently, some 80 million workers in 20 countries have access to personal retirement accounts. These countries include Chile, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Hong Kong, El Salvador and Croatia (roughly in the order in which they adopted the plans).
That's one heck of a coalition of the willing. One wonders if Democrats might be a little more willing to go along with Social Security reform if they knew of its broad international support.
The international experience underscores a serious point:
For America to remain at the top of the economic ladder in an increasingly integrated global economy, we must reform Social Security now. Do we really want China, potentially our future arch-rival, getting personal accounts before we do?
Total Bull Donkey: Democrats Develop Social Security Calculator.
Last week, WILLisms.com noted the existence of some interesting Social Security reform calculators, which show how much better retirees would end up under various reform models than under the current system.
Try it out. It's a real hoot.
Schumer, incidentally (as WILLisms.com previously noted), was recently named co-porker of the month by Citizens Against Government Waste; he also has voted numerous times over the years to raise Social Security taxes. Schumer said of the calculator:
"The president's been making it seem to people that privatization makes you money. It loses you money."
Oh, boy, where to begin with this nonsense?
Intentionally cryptic and vague about the assumptions going into the calculations, the Schumer/Democrat calculator assumes an abysmal 2.7% growth rate in the personal account, which is absurdly low. The Schumer model also assumes that contributions to the personal account would be capped at 1000 dollars annually and for some reason puts the retirement age at 65 (perhaps so the accounts have less years to grow?).
The calculator, funded by taxpayer dollars, also appears on the website of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who said that President Bush’s reform proposal would lead to “a guaranteed benefit cut of 40 percent or more.”
The Heritage Foundation explains how he came to such a bizarre conclusion:
"How, then, do opponents of reform arrive at their misleading predictions? By simply ignoring the money saved and invested in personal accounts. Their numbers imply that investing money in personal accounts would reduce the amount of money available to pay benefits by 13 percent, leading to an overall benefit cut of 40 percent. This analysis assumes that the money that goes into the PRAs would just disappear and that none of it would be available to pay Social Security benefits in the future. Nothing could be further from the truth."
The explanation from the Schumer release also offers "Thanks to Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities for the underlying calculations."
Furman, it must be noted, was one of the sources in the recent Washington Post article that had to be retracted and corrected for its erroneous claims. Furman also worked for General Wesley Clark's and Senator John Kerry's failed campaigns; his peculiar brand of Marxist economics has been thoroughly rejected first by Democrats, then by Americans as a whole.
Another problem with the calculator is that it assumes wages will not grow. In other words, it tells a 24-year-old making, say, $45,000 this year, that her income will never rise, even as inflation rises (and wages likely outpace inflation). $45,000 in, say, 1965, was the equivalent of nearly a quarter of a million dollars by the turn of the century (source: NASA calculator). Similarly, assuming that someone's salary is never going to rise between now and the late 2040s, even as inflation rises, is dubious and nonsensical.
The most egregious problem of all with the calculator, however, is that it assumes, falsely, that under the current system, benefits will be there for retirees. This is simply not true, as the system, with no action taken, will not be solvent for the WILLisms.com generation; Democrats still have yet to offer any alternative.
In short, this calculator takes exclusively worst case scenarios from various potential reform plans, puts them together, adds in non-existant "privatization taxes" then labels it all "Bush's plan" (when the President himself has yet to endorse a specific plan, only guiding principles, principles which certainly do not include any "privatization tax"). The calculator is intentionally misleading at best, but more likely is flat-out deceitful.
Shame on Democrats for this sham, this bull donkey.
WILLisms.com recommends this Social Security calculator instead:
On it, you can input reasonable levels for variables yourself, and everything is transparent. Very little about it is fixed, unlike the Democralculator.
Also, if you desire maximum ease of use (although you can also fine-tune your results), give this calculator a spin, from the Heritage Foundation.
"Chuck's calculator isn't really a calculator at all. It's a slick assault on Social Security reform as a whole, and offers no solutions to those of us who aren't likely to see its 'promises' kept."
"CBO projects that under current law Social Security outlays will first exceed revenues from payroll taxes and taxation of benefits in 2020 and that the program will exhaust the trust funds in 2052. After the trust funds are exhausted, Social Security spending cannot exceed annual revenues. As a consequence, because dedicated revenues are projected to equal 78 percent of scheduled outlays in 2053, CBO finds that the benefits paid will be 22 percent lower than the scheduled benefits."
The Democrat calculator claims to use CBO data, but it conveniently omits that little bit of cold, hard truth.
Tort Reform Passes House.
Last week, the Senate passed class action reform (part of tort reform).
This week, the House of Representatives followed suit, 279-149 (6 not voting).
The measure was supported by 50 Democrats, while only one Republican opposed it. Uncharacteristically living up to his name, California Representative John T. Doolittle voted against it.
Doolittle, a Republican Party loyalist (the 6th ranking Republican House member) and typically conservative on the issues, deviated from reformers on this measure.
The measure now heads to the President's desk, where it will likely be signed sometime in the next week.
Reform Thursday: Bonus
Behold, the Templeton Curve:
"The Templeton Curve teaches us that the short-term costs of Social Security reform are trivial relative to the long-term gains. The sooner we adopt the personal investment option, the better off our children’s, and their children’s, and their children’s children’s financial futures will be. Perhaps the personal account option should be called the 'children’s defense fund.'"
Reform Thursday: Social Security- Chart Three.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.
Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.
Answering Professor Bainbridge.
UCLA Corporate Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge, who says he is "open to persuasion (and remain ideologically inclined to favor private accounts)" asks some good questions about Social Security reform on his blog:
"1. Would we achieve significant actuarial improvements in the health of the Social Security system by (a) changing the method by which the benefits is calculated from being based on wages to one based on prices (see Tyler Cowen's post for details) and (b) increasing the retirement age? Social security was designed for an era in which most folks would live to receive benefits for months rather than years. Why not deal with that problem directly? (Glenn Reynolds has a solution that goes somewhat in the other direction.)"
1(a): Switching from wage indexing to price indexing would take care of a significant portion of the shortfalls. Understand, though, Social Security has not always been based on wage indexing, though. At one point benefits were based on price indexing. So there is not anything about wage or price indexing that is written in stone.
1(b): Increasing the retirement age would also solve a significant portion of the problem, but not all.
These fixes, both, are not permanent, however, nor are they necessarily the optimal choices.
First, prices may rise faster than wages some of the time, and vice-versa. In recent years, wages have risen faster than prices. That may not always be the case. Still, it is very LIKELY that wages will continue to outpace inflation, given recent history. Nonetheless, changing the way benefits are calculated is most susceptible to demagoguery by opponents of reform. They can claim that benefits will be cut, and at some level they would be correct. Changing the way benefits are calculated, however, with the addition of personal accounts, would be politically feasible as it would not reduce benefits. Price indexing plus personal accounts would simply shift some of the burden of paying out benefits away from the U.S. government and toward the market.
Second, life expectancy will continue to climb (is a 5,000-Year-Old Woman impossible?) and make an increase in the retirement age irrelevant several years from now. Eventually, to match the way Social Security started (with average life expectancy and the retirement age pegged at roughly the same number), we could see the retirement age at 75, 80, 90, or even 100. That just does not seem reasonable at all.
And can you imagine the politics of that? It would be a massacre at the polls for those who supported such ideas on their own as a way to fix the problem.
"2. If we can achieve significant savings and ensure the health of the system with the changes mentioned in # 1, is there a non-ideological reason for introducing private accounts? Even proponents of private accounts concede that the transition costs will require trillions of dollars of government borrowing. Do we conservatives really want revenge on FDR and the New Deal at that price? Personally, speaking as a small government fiscal conservative kind of guy, I'd give up personal accounts if any money thereby saved was spent on deficit reduction or, better yet, an income tax rate cut."
We can ensure significant savings, but the solutions proposed in #1 do not solve the entire problem over the long-term. Only personal accounts do that, by making the system self-sustaining. Changing the way benefits are calculated and raising the retirement age would be a mere temporary patch, as the 1983 reforms were. If we want to keep revisiting the issue of Social Security every 10 or 20 years, we can reform the system without personal accounts. If we want a solution that will endure, personal accounts are the only way to go.
On transition costs: As Alan Greenspan noted today in his testimony ( full-text here), and as has been stated time and time again by the President and other supporters of reform, the transition costs are already there. The government owes them no matter what. It's either less now or more later. Greenspan said as much today. The government will have to borrow quite a lot to fix the mess, either way. Doing it sooner rather than later is the best way to minimize those costs.
Here is just one exchange by Senator Bennett and Chairman Greenspan:
"SEN. BENNETT: ...if we do nothing, as some are suggesting, we've still got to find several trillion dollars of additional cash. And so when we say, gee, if we do the private accounts we're going to have to find some cash, that's a transition cost, the point is, if we don't do anything, we have to find some cash.
As far as being willing to give up personal accounts for deficit reduction or an income tax rate cut goes, personal accounts would be, essentially, a tax cut. Rather than payroll taxes going directly into government coffers, the money would go toward creating personal wealth. Also, tax reform and Social Security reform are not mutually exclusive. Real tax reform comes next year, and will likely have greater success if Social Security reform passes this year.
Furthermore, the injection of otherwise socialized capital into the market will help the economy grow, increasing revenues to the government, with which it can take care of deficits.
"3. Why aren't conservatives talking about other entitlement programs, such as Medicare, which reportedly is scheduled to go broke long before Social Security does?"
Some people are talking about Medicare, but the point is well-taken that more people ought to be talking about it. Politics is just about making priorities. You don't decide not to fix Social Security because Medicare is broken, just like you don't ignore your broken arm just because you also have the flu. You don't not do something because something else needs attention. Sometimes you need to rack up some relatively easy wins first, before moving onto the most difficult problems. Mostly, in addressing why Social Security reform before Medicare reform, it's a matter of understanding the problems in and solutions for Social Security, while Medicare is not so simple.
Medicare reform is far more difficult, because the primary reason for its costs rising is the rapidly rising cost of health care. There is very little the government can do about that. In fact, much of the rise in medical costs are due to the miracles of science and medicine, which did not exist years ago. It is very difficult to project what kinds of medical procedures will exist in the future, because medicine is advancing to rapidly.
The solutions for Medicare are not as clear-cut as the solutions for Social Security. Because Medicare reform is more rife with jargon and technicalities, and there is no grassroots support behind changing the system, Republicans would first need to gain the public's trust on Social Security reform before tackling Medicare. The prescription drug benefit, over the next few years of implementation, ought to give seniors some reassurance that another round of reforms in Medicare would not hurt them.
If you think the opposition to Social Security reform is intense, just wait until Medicare reform comes up.
One last point, made by Bainbridge:
"...Greenspan supports creating private accounts, but believes that they will not contribute to ensuring the long-term solvency of the system."
This is not quite correct. Personal accounts alone will not ensure the long-term solvency of the system, if everything else is left the same, but once up-and-running, after the transition, they will be the only thing that can give the system permanent solvency. Greenspan made this point very clear, that "by themselves" the accounts do not create solvency. Any reform passed will not consist of personal accounts, alone.
Critics of reform would say, "well, you have to cut benefits, then." Yeah, of course. You slow the growth of benefit increases (or maybe even cut benefits) paid by the government, but the personal accounts more than make up for that cut. Critics like to harp on the "cut benefits" part of that, but for a retiree who cares exclusively about getting his checks, there will not only be no reduction in benefits, it is almost assured that the retiree under the reformed system will get far more than he would have under the current system.
Classiness, Pure Classiness, From Other Blogs.
A summary of interesting topics from other blogs-
Two, from Powerline:
"That Scheuer mimics the Saudi line should not be surprising. The main theme of Imperial Hubris -- that Muslim hatred of America is the product of American policies that are perceived as anti-Islamic, not the result of Muslim hatred of western ideology or culture -- also seems lifted from Saudi propaganda."
"Mayor Bloomberg may experience 'The Gates' artwork that debuted in Central Park over the weekend as a political liability."
"...about the war on terror Dean was dismissively blase. About bike paths he was a pit bull."
"...the Sunnis have admitted that their boycott of the recent elections was wrong, and from the other end, the Shi'ites are reaching out to the Sunnis and encouraging Sunni political participation."
"Is the point to have a dialogue with the MSM or cause its destruction?
"'Do you believe that democracy will help solve Iraqs Political, Security and Financial problems?
Socialism and Social Security.
There are myriad reasons for reforming Social Security. The most obvious is that the system, as of now, is not self-sustaining, and reforming it could prevent constant revisiting of the issue. Secondly, reform could simply offer Americans a Better Deal at retirement than the rather dated New Deal.
But what about making America more free market-oriented, less socialistic?
Pete du Pont makes a compelling case:
"American socialist Noam Chomsky made the same argument concerning Social Security: that allowing people to invest in markets is a bad thing, for 'putting people in charge of their own assets breaks down the solidarity that comes from doing something together, and diminishes the sense that people have responsibility for each other.'
As the global economy becomes further globalized, the United States must position itself at an advantage relative to other nations, particularly China and India.
Right now, roughly 1/8 of American wages are encumbered by Social Security taxes. Those dollars are not growing; they are not even in a real "trust fund" somewhere. Currently, Social Security revenues get slurped up by the black hole that is the U.S. government bureaucracy. That is not efficient, any way you look at it.
The U.S. can and must do better. America can move those Social Security revenues from the black hole into the free (or at least freer than now) market.
"When you increase an individual's wealth, he becomes less dependent on government, and his attitude towards government changes. Socialists can't allow that, for it erodes their fundamental principle that social justice can only be achieved when important segments of the economy are under government control.
An ownership society, with Social Security reform at its base, would make America more American. Low and middle income people would be able to accumulate and bequeath wealth in personal accounts they, not the government, own. America's startlingly low rate of savings would increase. Americans would have more resources at retirement.
Most of all, Social Security reform would deliver body blow to the very concept of subtle, creeping socialism in America, injecting trillions of dollars into American entrepreneurialship and individual control.
The Declaration of Independence:
Social Security reform would maximize economic liberty in America, leading to greater actualization of the pursuit of happiness.
Greenspan Testifies Today, Social Security On Agenda.
"Mr. Corzine and fellow banking committee Democratic Sens. Charles E. Schumer of New York and Jack Reed of Rhode Island held a press conference yesterday to pre-empt Mr. Greenspan's remarks.
Hilarious. Greenspan supported the President's tax relief because it make economic sense, period.
The petrified, nervous look on the face of the Chuck Schumer, who incidentally was just named co-porker of the month (with Hillary Clinton) by Citzens Against Government Waste, was an absolutely priceless thing to witness.
Both sides, though, ought to be at least somewhat nervous; Greenspan, the high priest of the American economy, respected by almost everyone for his impartiality, is brutally honest and will likely give Democrats some ammunition (or at least SOMETHING to cling to) on the subject of deficits (which, as WILLisms.com noted, are actually getting smaller due to the wonders of the Laffer Curve). Democrats also want to get Greenspan to "admit" that personal accounts are not the total solution to the problem, and the government will have to borrow in the short-term to cover the transition costs.
While personal accounts may not be a short-term panacea, over the long haul it's the only solution. The argument has been rehashed a million times over, but the "costs" of reforming Social Security are not new costs. They are merely a recognition of, and an early paying off, of already-existing obligations.
Greenspan's testimony is not make-or-break for either side, but it could give crucial inertia to the President's case for reform. Greenspan will also likely drive a stake through the Democrats' absurd notion that "there is no crisis."
"We think the other side is getting kind of desperate, so they are going to try to take whatever Chairman Greenspan says and make it like an endorsement of the president's plan."
Senator Schumer, with his frantic, impromptu, preemptive press conference seems like the desperate one.
-Look for Democrats to question Greenspan just below the threshold of badgering, in order to extract anything they can use.
-Look for Democrats to incorporate innocuous and tangential comments by Greenspan, even if they do not support their case, into their talking points.
The spotlight, even more than usual, is on Chairman Greenspan.
Greenspan's semi-annual testimony will go for two days, Wednesday and Thursday. WILLisms.com will bring you full coverage of it, so stay tuned.
Yet Another Awkward Howard Dean Moment.
Yesterday, WILLisms.com commented on the poor choice of Howard Dean as DNC chair, due in part to his penchant for making errant and inflammatory comments. He just can't help himself.
"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."Quote found here, via the Wizbang blog.
Sure, Republicans need to work on "the sales pitch" to African-Americans, a voting bloc monopolized by Democrats, but President Bush's inspiringly diverse cabinet is a start. The same cannot be said of Howard Dean's cabinet while he was Vermont's governor.
While Howard Dean can almost certainly do no worse than Terry McAuliffe, he promises, thus far, to provide Republicans with a steady stream of unfortunate gaffes and ammunition. "Red State" Democrats, beware: close association with the Dean circus (how could you even avoid it?) could prove hazardous to your political health.
Howard Dean: "a font of indiluted foolishness" (credit for that phrase goes to U.T. President Larry Faulkner).
UPDATE: Blogger La Shawn Barber says of the situation: "Typical. And disgusting…"
Shout Out To My Foreign Readers.
Just looking at some site stats earlier, and some interesting things popped up:
Visitors from Japan, China, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Argentina, The Netherlands, the U.K., Seychelles, Canada, South Korea, Vietnam, Russia, Germany, Colombia, and Iraq, among others.
Few from overseas are particularly regular visitors, but it is still neat to have people all over the world reading WILLisms.com.
Howard Dean: "We Democrats need to be a lot more like Tom DeLay."
Are Republicans (and even some Democrats) underestimating Howard Dean?
Eric Pfieffer, in his National Review blog "Beltway Buzz," argues just that:
"When I was covering the Democratic National Convention in Boston this summer, I had the chance to see Dean speak. The event was a lavish party thrown for members of the California delegation. Nancy Pelosi was first to speak. After Pelosi encouraged her constituents to party and enjoy the moment, Dean took the stage on a more forceful note. He began reading a laundry list of grievances against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Upon reaching the end of the list, Dean said something surprising. Instead of delivering a sermon on liberal virtues, Dean uttered the following statement, 'We Democrats need to be a lot more like Tom DeLay.' Needless to say, the crowd did not respond enthusiastically to Dean's battle cry. But it's a strategy that if sincerely practiced should put dismissive Dean critics on notice."
If Dean's comment about emulating Tom DeLay is any indication, perhaps he knows what he is doing.
Still, count WILLisms.com among the skeptics of Dean.
He may have been reelected governor several times, but it was only from Vermont, not exactly a representative slice of America.
Although the Pfieffer piece makes a solid point about low expectations for Dean, and about a sympathetic press potentially reviving his reputation, Howard Dean was still not the right man at the right time for the DNC. Afterall, raising money is not everything. Dean, no matter how much money he can raise, will remain a burden on Democrats running in Republican-dominated regions of the country.
UPDATE: James Taranto, in Best of the Web, notes:
"What's missing? Any sort of positive agenda, any indication that the Democrats stand for anything other than nostalgia for Vietnam and the Depression. Seventy years ago, when the New Deal actually was new, it was the Democrats who were 'radicals' and the Republicans who 'defended their principles aggressively' against them. That didn't work out so well for the GOP. Nowadays the Democrats have nothing to offer but the Same Old Deal."
The Laffer Curve Lives!
Lowering taxes increases tax revenues.
You read that right. When the government LOWERS taxes, it generates MORE money.
So sayeth Arthur Laffer.
The SocialSecurityChoice.com blog explains the Laffer curve and how Bush's tax relief has actually increased revenues coming into the government.
"The answer is simple: above some optimum tax rate, every tax becomes counterproductive. When sketched as a graph on a cocktail napkin, this economic truth is known as 'the Laffer Curve'.
Larry Kudlow noted this phenomenon more than a month ago:
"Here’s one story you won’t find on tomorrow’s front pages: 'The U.S. Budget Deficit Is Shrinking Rapidly.' The headline would be accurate, but the mainstream media is much more interested in talking down this booming economy than telling it like it is. This week’s Treasury report on the nation’s finances for December shows a year-to-date fiscal 2005 deficit that is already $11 billion less than last year’s. In the first three months of the fiscal year that began last October, cash outlays by the federal government increased by 6.1 percent while tax collections grew by 10.5 percent. When more money comes in than goes out, the deficit shrinks.
William P. Kucewicz, in National Review, writes:
"By now, the effects of the Bush tax reforms should be obvious to all but the most obtuse observers. From the beginning of 2002 to mid-2003, private investment’s GDP share was flat at 15.3 percent to 15.5 percent. After the June 2003 tax cuts, though, the percentage rose steadily, reaching 17 percent in 2004. As a result, the growth rate of private domestic GDP (i.e., GDP less trade and government) has almost doubled, accelerating from 2.8 percent in the second quarter of 2003 to a year-on-year average of more than 5 percent since then.
The Laffer Curve Lives!
An Early Look At Potential 2008 Presidential Candidates: Part One- Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.
Over the next few months, WILLisms.com plans to examine several potential candidates from both parties for 2008's presidential race.
The first: Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel.
Rightwingnews.com recently conducted an unscientific-but-enlightening survey of right-of-center bloggers.
Chuck Hagel was the 4th LEAST desired nominee for 2008, behind only John McCain, Newt Gingrich, and George Pataki (note: simultaneously, Gingrich was the 5th MOST desired, McCain was the 8th MOST desired, and Pataki was the 13th MOST desired, while Hagel did not appear on the MOST desired list).
Another blogger with a keen talent for electoral politics calls Hagel a tier 3 candidate.
In more scientific polling, Hagel received 1% in a December 2004 survey of Republicans. Hagel clearly has work to do if he wants to be president in 2008.
The American Spectator magazine's February cover story on Chuck Hagel scolds the Nebraska Senator for his actions during the 2004 campaign, in which he became "an indispensable voicebox for the dominant media, frequently echoing reporters' thoughts on Bush's incompetence and insufficient regard for the feelings of 'the world.'"
Dismissing Hagel derisively as a McCain wannabe and not a serious contender for the 2008 GOP nomination, the article notes:
"The growing chatter about a Chuck Hagel presidential bid isn't bubbling up from grassroots Republican activists. It is coming from elite journalists in Washington who repeat ad naseaum Hagel's assertion that the Republican Party is adrift. They regard Hagel as a tertiary John McCain- an 'independent' and 'maverick' Republican they can book for their talk shows if the Arizona senator isn't available."
Indeed, this Washington Post article from two months before the 2004 election, titled "Some Republicans Predict Upheaval Within the Party," looks rather silly in retrospect.
Recalling our reaction to this article at the time, there is no doubt that if WILLisms.com had been blogging in September 2004, we would have called it silly then, as well.
The piece, which has aged like a fine wine over the past few months, getting more and more hilarious as time passes, has these gems:
"Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a man known for frank talk, offered a blunt description of the state of his party, which broke camp here Friday after nominating President Bush for a second term. 'The Republican Party,' he said, 'has come loose of its moorings.'
Notice how certain the authors seem of Bush's impending loss? A Bush defeat "will", rather than "would", trigger a reassessment.
Thus, Hagel placed a bet and lost. He, like Christine Todd Whitman, bought into the anti-Bush hype and got burned for it. It is highly unlikely Hagel will emerge, even with significant establishment-media support, as a real contender in 2008.
The Spectator piece, probably too harsh on Hagel for the most part (more on that in a moment), does point out one instance that could singlehandedly destroy Hagel's chances in 2008:
"...in a moment that foreshadowed later 'growth,' Hagel broke with Bob Dole on a proposed 15 percent income tax cut. 'I can't sign on to those tax cuts,' he said, 'I can't be irresponsible about it.' Hagel now regards pledges not to raise taxes as 'irresponsible.'"
Republicans, who felt betrayed when President George H. W. Bush raised taxes, take tax pledges seriously. Expect groups like Americans for Tax Reform and Club for Growth to hammer Hagel relentlessly on his weak credentials on taxes, if he happens to make the short list of 2008 contenders.
The Spectator, however, a decidedly conservative publication, does overstate the case against Hagel quite a bit.
Looking at Hagel's ratings by interest groups over the years, it is clear he is a genuine conservative; there is no reason to question that point. Hagel favors school prayer, is for vouchers, and even voted to remove President Clinton during the impeachment; calling Hagel a RINO (Republican In Name Only) is not accurate, nor fair. However, whether he favors liberty and democracy more than being liked by the U.N. and Old Europe is a significant and relevant issue.
Hagel adheres to what he considers foreign policy realism; he does not believe in President Bush's Wilsonian vision of liberty in the Middle East. Hagel has been an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq; he does not believe in unilateral action, or preemption, and he seems at times like a proud member of the Joe Biden fan club.
As far as conservative credentials go, Hagel did lead the fight in the Senate against the Kyoto Protocols on global warming in 1997, but just last week he introduced legislation as an alternative to Kyoto:
"Key elements of Hagel's legislative agenda:
Afterall, Kyoto is frequently cited by foreign governments as an example of U.S. unilateralism. Hagel, ever the internationalist, is eager for the international community to approve of the U.S. His foreign policy vision at times seems closer to that of John Kerry, who, incidentally, during the second presidential debate of 2004, even cited Hagel's criticism of the reconstruction effort in Iraq.
"KERRY: Senator Hagel of Nebraska said that the handling of Iraq is beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing; it's in the zone of dangerous."
Hagel may be more keen on Kerry than he is on Bush. Hagel, who voted against No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, is no Bush fan. He refused to say anything remotely critical of John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, thus he became a frequently quoted figure in the liberal establishment media; Hagel, because of his subtle support for Kerry, became a media darling.
"I like him. He's smart, he's tough, he's capable. I don't agree with him on a lot of things [though] I am closer to him on foreign policy questions. . . . He's certainly qualified to be president."
But would Hagel want to be president?
"...responding to 13-year-old Alex Rivas, who had asked if Hagel wanted to be president. "'The president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world. I think most of us in this business . . . do think occasionally about running for president.'
Unfortunately for Hagel, his 2008 hopes rest on the failure of the mission in Iraq. Like so many Democrats over the past few years, for Hagel, bad news for the country is good news for his career.
President Bush has been a transformative leader for the GOP, and the coalition of more than 62 million voters he put together was based heavily on Bush's vision for the war on terror and promoting liberty in the world. Hagel, with his self-described Kerry-like foreign policy, would have to cobble together enough primary and caucus support from the mostly Bush-loving base of Republicans, an improbably task. Hagel, if he received the nomination, would likely beat almost any Democrat, but his chances at getting the nomination in the first place are slim.
Clearly, Hagel has an uphill battle in winning the hearts and minds of Republican primary voters, despite his mostly-conservative policy positions over the years. He may focus on cultivating his media-driven McCainesque reputation as a moderate maverick, while simultaneously proving to conservatives that he is one of them with a few token gestures.
Hagel's task: for anyone, a difficult tightrope to walk; while Hagel would be acceptable as president compared to, say, Hillary Clinton, WILLisms.com would not bet on Hagel becoming the Republican nominee in 2008.
Stay tuned for more 2008 previews from WILLisms.com. By next week, expect a profile on South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
2006 Could Confirm New Political Trends, Benefiting Republicans.
Today, Brandon Miniter, in the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com, notes that,
"There's no reason 2006 has to be an off year for Republicans.... winning on Social Security, tax and tort reform will leave Republicans on favorable political ground, much the way FDR set the stage for Democrats to control Congress for decades."
In the 20th century, off-year elections (elections with no presidential race) tended to hurt the party in control of the White House, sometimes quite intensely.
Click for larger version:
"Yet conventional wisdom--even when backed up by historical trends--isn't always the best predictor of future events. There's actually a reasonable chance that the Republican will pick up seats in next year's elections. After all, the last time the off-year election rule held was in 1994--when Bill Clinton was pushing an unpopular plan to nationalize much of the health-care industry.
If Democrats block Social Security reform (and as of today, the only likely way that could happen is through filibuster in the Senate), it would be their Jonestown, not their 1994. If Senators from the party of Howard Dean, up for reelection in 2006 in Republican-leaning or Republican-trending states, drink the Kool-Aid Harry Reid is serving up right now, they will have at least been warned.
In fact, let this comment, right here, right now, for all the world to see, be the warning to Democrats in Republican-leaning areas:
IF YOU BLOCK SOCIAL SECURITY REFORM, YOU'LL SOON FACE YOUR OWN COMPULSORY RETIREMENT.
Was that ominous?
It was meant to be ominous.
Miniter explains that, while the Senate outlook is very promising for Republicans, the House shows a lot of potential, as well:
"...there aren't very many unsafe Republicans seats left in the House. Meanwhile there are Democrats who could be picked off. One is Chet Edwards, whose district includes Mr. Bush's Crawford ranch. Mr. Edwards won with just 51% of the vote last year.
Indeed, Chet Edwards is only one of many potentially vulnerable Democrats in the House. And with the albatrosses of Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean around their necks, House Democrats from relatively conservative districts may be in for the toughest fights of their political lives in 2006.
With no pesky presidential election to worry about, it seems perfectly reasonable that President Bush might want to take down as many of the anti-reform Representatives opposing his initiatives, such as Chet Edwards, as he can. If 2002 is any indication, George W. Bush will devote himself to campaigning on behalf of Republicans in close Congressional races--- and he'll have success.
If, in 2006, Republicans gain seats in Congress, it will mark the third straight off-year election the party in control of the White House will have won (1998 was good for Democrats, 2002 for Republicans). A new trend, perhaps?
More likely, it is merely a new equilibrium in American politics, a completion of the still-ongoing Republican realignment. Afterall, the last time a president had the kind of coattails George W. Bush has, his party went on to control Congress for more than a generation.
WILLisms.com will continue to follow this and other emerging political stories, so stay tuned.
Arnold Plays Hardball With California Liberals.
Speaking of union woes, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is getting tough, yet again, with Calfornia liberals.
Arnold is a political juggernaut, and he seems intent on taking down the unions a peg in Calfornia. The new wisdom in California politics is that when Arnold sets his mind to something, he can win over even skeptical Californians to his side. His communications team is unparalleled. His popularity is consistently high. His style is that of an outsider, a reformer, and a populist. The Arnold Factor is undeniable. Standing between Governor Schwarzenegger and his mission is the easiest ticket to destruction.
Nonetheless, Arnold has a tough fight ahead of him in getting his plans for reform enacted. Because the Democrat-controlled California legislature, beholden to labor unions, has not cooperated, he is taking his case directly to the people, via ballot initiative.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger is a political moderate, but he has decided to lead a revolution against the unions and other interest groups blocking his package of four reform initiatives that will likely go before voters this fall.
'We're going right there where all the evil is, and we're going to fix this problem once and for all,' he thundered."
His four-part plan:
"First, the governor wants automatic spending cuts to be imposed when expenditures exceed revenue. Second, he wants to change government employee pensions from defined-benefit plans to 401(k)-type plans. He also calls for scrapping the 2001 bipartisan gerrymandering of the state's political districts. And he wants to link pay for teachers to their performance, while making it easier to fire bad ones."
The unions, predictably, are against merit pay and firing non-performing teachers. They are fighting hard, but likely fighting in vain, against the changes Arnold wants.
"The public-employee unions that exercise inordinate influence over the Democratic Legislature are spoiling for a fight this fall just as much as the governor is. On Saturday, some 120 shouting union activists disrupted speeches at the GOP convention by conservative leaders Grover Norquist and Ken Blackwell with piercing whistles and chants such as 'Arnie, Arnie, you can't hide. We can see your evil side.' Union spokeswoman Cathy Hackett told me the 'evil' lies with the governor's budget cuts that she says slash services to the poor, seniors and children."
The unions don't seem to understand they are living in Arnold's world. In a way, California is a large Schwarzenegger film; the unions are merely featured extras for Arnold to destroy on his way to box office cha-ching.
"'Those poor little guys,' he said of the attempts by teacher unions and others to run ads accusing him of budget cruelties 'They're trying very hard. . . . They may have a wonderful dream about that. But the reality is very sad for them."
WILLisms.com is betting on Arnold to win.
Looking Hard For The Union Label.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released its statistics on union membership in 2004. It was not pretty for the labor unions.
John Carlisle, writing in The American Spectator takes on why union membership has fallen so precipitously in the U.S.
"...12.5 percent of workers, including both the private sector and government, were enrolled in unions in 2004, down from 12.9 percent in 2003. For the private sector alone the number declined from 8.2 percent to 7.9 percent. This represents a dramatic drop from labor's peak in 1956, when 35 percent of private-sector workers belonged to unions."
Carlisle argues that there are two major reasons why union membership has fallen so dramatically:
1. "Misuse of members' dues for political activism"
"Unions take in at least $17 billion annually, which mainly comes from the compulsory dues culled from the paychecks of more than 12 million workers. But only about 20 percent of dues are used for collective bargaining -- which is the top priority of rank-and-file workers. As a result, unions are able to lavish hundreds of millions of dollars on politicians.
So what? Shouldn't unions be able to lobby, just like corporations?
Sure, but as Carlisle points out:
"There would be nothing wrong with such political spending if it expressed the wishes of labor's rank-and-file. But all too often, it does not. Usually, 35 to 40 percent of union members vote Republican. And even many Democratic union members do not approve of their dues going to political activities. When the AFL-CIO launched a $35 million campaign in 1996 to buy ads for Democratic congressional candidates, a Luntz Research poll showed that 62 percent of union members opposed the plan."
Is it any wonder that union membership is falling off?
Happy Valentine's Day.
Happy Valentine's Day.
Chile's Model Social Security System.
The United States is certainly not the first nation to try personal accounts in Social Security, and it probably will not be the last.
"Currently, some 80 million workers in 20 countries have access to personal retirement accounts. These countries include Chile, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Mexico, Uruguay, Australia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Poland, Latvia, Sweden, Hong Kong, El Salvador and Croatia (roughly in the order in which they adopted the plans).
Social Security systems designed like Ponzi schemes are destined to fail (more on this from a previous WILLisms.com post); a high priority in reforming Social Security in any country must be the creation of a self-sustaining system, based on market forces, not beholden to demographics.
For American workers and American companies to continue to compete (and typically win) against emerging economic powers in China and India, Social Security must offer Americans advantages, or, at least, must NOT place the U.S. at a disadvantage, as it does now.
The first country to "privatize" its Social Security system was Chile. José Piñera, who was a member of the Chilean government that transformed its Social Security system almost 25 years ago, answers whether it has been successful:
"Since the system started on May 1, 1981, the average real return on the personal accounts has been 10 percent a year. The pension funds have now accumulated resources equivalent to 70 percent of gross domestic product, a pool of savings that has helped finance economic growth and spurred the development of liquid long-term domestic capital market. By increasing savings and improving the functioning of both the capital and labor markets, the reform contributed to the doubling of the growth rate of the economy from 1985 to 1997 (from the historic 3 percent to 7.2 percent a year) until the slowdown caused by the government's erroneous response to the Asian crisis."
Estelle James, offering a fair examination of the pros and cons of Chile's system in the Washington Post, describes "How It's Done in Chile:
"The virtues of Chile's system have been trumpeted by those seeking to replicate it here. Unlike traditional social security payments, benefits in Chile are based on personal investment accounts owned by workers. Chileans don't worry about whether the government will run out of money as baby boomers retire, because benefits are financed by their own assets, which have been accumulating in their own accounts, not by taxes paid by current workers. The funds are privately managed and therefore insulated from political interference."
James argues that the principles of Chile's system are great, but the United States can do better in a few key areas:
"Workers in Chile had practically no investment choice for 20 years. Each asset manager could offer only one portfolio and portfolios were all similar.
Meaningful choices, but not unlimited choices.
"Chile's system initially had very high administrative costs, in part because fund managers had to invest in new information technologies and marketing tools. As assets grew, costs fell dramatically and are now about 1 percent of assets, lower than in the average U.S. mutual fund.
When critics talk about "costs" of "privatization" adding up to trillions of dollars, they are consciously distorting the fact that reforming the system would mean moving future liabilities to the nearer term to make them more manageable (are those really "costs" at all?). Rather, those with anti-reform agendas are purposely trying to elicit notions of Wall Street guys in pinstriped suits collecting fees galore. This is simply not the case. 30 basis points is nothing.
"Chile's minimum pension is good, but could be even better. On the plus side: It keeps low-income pensioners from falling way below the average standard of living. On the negative side: It offers no extra safety net for more than 20 years of work. Some low earners avoid contributing beyond 20 years because their additional contributions would simply replace subsidies they would get otherwise. In the United States, we could avoid creating such perverse incentives."
Other nations, including the U.K., Australia, Sweden, and even Russia have moved to one form or another of privatization, mostly with positive results, although anti-reform forces like to point out the problems in those systems, problems the U.S. will certainly avoid.
Reforming Social Security will require a careful examination of the potential consequences, in order to create a system without unnecessary drawbacks. The United States can learn much from the successes and failures of other countries on the issue, repeating the successes and avoiding the failures.
When Raising Money Is Not Everything.
At DNC ex-chairman Terry McAuliffe's awkward going-away party last week, the party celebrated its record-breaking fundraising under his tenure, which allowed the Democrats to get out from under large debt as they built their fancy new D.C. headquarters.
But they couldn't celebrate much else.
Money is important in politics, but it isn't everything.
Although Democrats, in recent years, have raised record sums of money, they've also experienced a shockingly rapid decline in power.
The AP (by way of PoliPundit.com blog) notes that Democrats outspent Republicans on television ads in Ohio, $61,000,000 to $39,000,000. Meanwhile, despite the best efforts of the conspiracy theorists, Bush won Ohio by 118,599 votes.
And it wasn't just Ohio that Democrats outspent Republicans.
As WILLisms.com has noted before, Democrats in 2004, who "went overkill on spending at nearly every level," were "swimming in money provided by individuals like George Soros and Peter Lewis."
What can happen when a political party (or any entity) devotes enormous levels of resources to a cause is, past a certain threshold, a declining utility kicks in for each dollar spent. Eventually, spending beyond a certain level can only become counterproductive, producing negative returns per dollar spent.
The run-down on the pros and cons Howard Dean usually goes like this, simplified enormously:
But money trumped everything else; Dean ascended.
As MSNBC reports,
"Democrats count Dean's proven ability to raise big money through small donations and his commitment to spreading power outside Washington as important assets in his new role."
Internet cash addiction is harming the electability of Democrats, yet they still crave more.
It seems that Democrats have learned no lessons from recent elections.
Blogging: How It Affects Partisan Politics.
Michael Barone, author of the indispensable Almanac of America Politics, perhaps the 3rd most astute observer of politics today (Karl Rove and Bill Clinton might be better), examines blogging and its effects on politics today, in the February 21 issue of U.S. News & World Report:
"The left blogosphere has moved the Democrats off to the left, and the right blogosphere has undermined the credibility of the Republicans' adversaries in Old Media. Both changes help Bush and the Republicans."
The article is worth reading in its entirety.
One point on which Barone could elaborate a bit more is the link between needing to raise political money and needing to play to the left hemisphere of the "blogosphere." [For those who are still new to blogging, "blogosphere" is just a term that describes all the blogs out there, and how they interact with one another; the world of blogging, if you will.] Barone notes:
"For 12 years, Democratic chairmen were chosen by Bill Clinton. He built a new generation of fundraisers who relished contact with the Clintons. Now the big money comes from the left blogosphere and Bush-hating billionaires like George Soros."
Democrats are addicted to internet cash. It's easy, it's fast, it's efficient. But the only way they can extract the requisite level of cash is by whipping an otherwise unlikely campaign/party contributor into an angry lather.
Political science research indicates that the general public takes cues from elites, with regard to ideology and ideas. Very few issues, even issues near-and-dear to the hearts of vast numbers of Americans, become prominent issues unless elites champion them.
What/who are elites?
Journalists, members of Congress, professors, presidential candidates, authors of books, celebrities, party leaders, lobbyists, judges, and even prominent bloggers- these are all examples of elites.
The party rank-and-file of both parties follow the party elites on policy, on tone, on everything. Over the past two years, leading Democrats have steered their party faithful down the road of extremism in order to extract enough resources (money, volunteer hours, votes, anger, etc.) to defeat George W. Bush.
They extracted more resources than ever before.
They still lost.
But now Democrats are stuck with an angry base, entirely of their own creation. Liberal regions of the blogosphere are caught in a sort of self-perpetuating, self-sustaining cycle. The choice of Howard Dean as party chairman underscores the power of the liberal blogs within the DNC.
This shift to not just the far left, but the angry far left, ultimately helps the GOP capture the all-important middle.
Meanwhile, the emergence of the right blogosphere has not had an equal and opposite result on the Republican Party. Perhaps it will one day negatively affect the GOP, but not thus far.
Patrick Ruffini notes that right-leaning bloggers are unlikely to descend into madness the way left-leaning bloggers have:
"The blogroots candidates who raise money hand over fist online and inspire hundreds of fanblogs may also be the most electable.
It's Official: Say Hello to Chairman Dean
Howard Dean is now, officially, the DNC's new chairman.
Congratulations to the Democrats on a fine choice. He was exactly what the Democrats needed.
Win For Bush, Win For Reform: Tort Reform Passes Senate.
WILLisms.com has commented in recent weeks on the momentum of tort reform, which likely would have been dead-on-arrival had John and John, Kerry and Edwards, been elected.
President Bush campaigned hard for tort reform, noting that America has become too litigious, and this sue-happy climate is not a good environment for economic growth. Frivolous lawsuits are a proven drag on the economy; cleaning up the system is necessary, among other reasons, to prevent jobs from going overseas unnecessarily to countries where indiscriminate, "keep-pulling-the-lever-until-you-hit-the-jackpot" lawsuits are not as common. Beholden to the trial-lawyer lobby for campaign cash, Democrats generally oppose tort reform.
Today the Senate passed tort reform, 72-26.
Notable votes against tort reform, based on WILLisms.com's list of promising 2006 Senate races for the GOP:
1. Democrat Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan.
Overall, though, 18 Democrats plus Jim Jeffords joined with 53 Republicans (the two other Republicans were absent) in supporting the measure.
The bill now goes to the House, where it is expected to coast to victory. President Bush will likely sign it into law sometime in late February.
While trial lawyers are likely to find ways around the reform, and this reform is relatively modest and narrow in scope, it is an important step for preventing outrageous lawsuits from drowning the American economy.
Stay tuned, as WILLisms.com will keep you updated on this story as it progresses.
Take Your Pick: Social Security Calculators
Take your pick. But definitely try one out, so you'll understand why, even with extremely conservative estimates of market growth, your benefits will not be "cut," as skeptics claim, rather, they will increase dramatically.
National Review Notes AARP's Agenda.
Today, National Review magazine took on the AARP's manipulative polling and its liberal agenda:
"AARP released a poll last month purportedly showing that the public agrees with it on a personal-account option for Social Security — opposing the idea by 48 percent to 43 percent. That poll seemed odd, since it was way out of line with polls going back over ten years now consistently showing large majorities supporting personal accounts.
So USA Next, the rapidly growing organization for future-looking, 21st-century seniors, asked nationally renowned pollster John McLaughlin to look into the AARP poll. What he found might remind you a little of what bloggers found when they looked into the supposed documents behind Dan Rather's phony CBS story about President Bush's National Guard service....
...the public should recognize from the analysis of these polls that AARP is a liberal lobbying group, not an honest representative of seniors. Most important, USA Next now offers members all the benefits that AARP does. So unless you support high taxes and big government, as AARP does on every issue, there is no longer reason to belong to AARP."
Social Security Reform Opponents Beating Up Straw Men.
Timothy J. Penny, a Democrat from Minnesota who spent 12 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, warns members of his party about setting up straw men in the Social Security debate.
First, an explanation of what a "straw man" is:
"A common tactic in political debate is to set up "straw men" and then knock them down. It is easy to win a debate this way — assuming people believe your assertions.
Now to the meat of the argument:
"Interestingly, many who today criticize Mr. Bush for using the word 'crisis' today were among a chorus of supporters when President Clinton warned us about Social Security's impending crisis seven years ago.
Straw man, example one:
"First, opponents insist reformers are out to 'privatize' Social Security. They know 'privatize' is a scary word, so they use it a lot. The 'privatization' allegation is designed to conjure images of a program in which the federal government backs out of its role in providing a safety net for retirees. But no such thing is proposed by reformers."
Straw man, example two:
"Second, opponents claim reformers want to place workers at risk of the stock market. Again that is not borne out by the facts. Because most reform plans are fashioned after the Federal Thrift Savings Plan, it should be clear that reformers are aware of the need to manage the risk associated with personal accounts. Under the TSP, there are a limited number of investment options (currently only five). The TSP offers mutual fund investments — broad based investment funds, either all bonds, all stocks or a little of each. None of these funds is heavily invested in any one company or any industry sector."
Straw man, example three:
"Third, opponents argue that reform is a Wall Street driven idea. Not so. Having worked on this issue for nearly a decade, I can report most Wall Street firms have been reluctant to engage in the debate."
Straw man, example four:
"Finally, opponents assert reformers want to 'destroy' Social Security. Again, not true. Reform advocates simply do not want to wait until the crisis is upon us to fix Social Security.
Reform Thursday: Social Security, Chart Two.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
That's why WILLisms.com will display a chart or graph, every Thursday, pertinent to Social Security reform.
Today's graphic, like last week's, comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data supporting Social Security reform.
Ronald Reagan On Social Security
In the spirit of the release of the official Ronald Reagan U.S. postage stamp, here is what he said about Social Security in 1964, in his famous "A Time For Choosing Speech" in support of Barry Goldwater:
"Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against" things, never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so much that isn't so. We are for a provision that destitution should not follow unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end we have accepted Social Security as a step toward meeting the problem.
Of course, Reagan backed off somewhat on his disdain for Social Security by the time he became the leader of the free world, because his 1964 position on it was not yet politicallly acceptable. Social Security was still the third rail of politics at that time, an untouchable entitlement program that could zap a political career if handled incorrectly.
In some ways, it is amazing how dramatically the nation's ideology shifted from 1964 to the 1980s. Barry Goldwater lost in 1964 with only 38% of the popular vote and under 10% of the Electoral College votes, but his ideas ignited a movement that paved the way for Ronald Reagan's Electoral College landslides in 1980 and 1984. The conservative movement thrives still today.
Just a quick note on some of the numbers Reagan used.
*$220, inflation-adjusted, is $1263.85 in 2003 dollars.
*$127, inflation-adjusted, is $729.59 in 2003 dollars. The monthly Social Security benefit has been increased somewhat over the years. In December 2004, the average monthly benefit payout under Social Security was $871.80.
How was government able to increase today's benefits from what it promised in 1964, by approximately 19%?
A perfect example of government inefficiency in action. The taxes increased by double, while the benefits increased by less than 1/5.
New Ronald Reagan Postage Stamp.
The United States Postal Service has released its first-ever Ronald Reagan stamp:
This might have been even nicer:
"President John Fitzgerald Kennedy • 600 items have been dedicated to the memory of JFK as of 2003. Estimates indicate another 50-100 additional Memorials have been added since....
It seems totally reasonable that Ronald Reagan should be on the 10 dollar bill. Why not?
UPDATE: Representative John "from Texas" Kline of Minnesota has introduced a bill to put Reagan on the $50 bill. In Minnesota in 2002, the negative ads against John Kline featured a big map of Texas, with a sinister-sounding voice: "John Kline, from Texas..." (because he was born in Texas).
Kline, incidentally, carried the "football," the briefcase within which the president can fire nuclear weapons, for President Reagan.
Bravo to John Kline for bringing this up. Grant, the current occupant of the fifty-slot, was a good general and below average president, at best. Reagan was one of the greatest presidents America has ever had.
There has been quite a bit of talk lately describing the Democratic Party as the party of obstruction, the party of no solutions or answers. In short, they are the party that comes up with a thousand reasons why any Republican plan won’t work, while not offering any new ideas of their own. Now, I’m sure our liberal friends would contest this, but it is hard to challenge a central tenant of one’s perspective. Conservatives are naturally optimistic, seeing the promise in each new day, and recognizing America’s place as the shining city on the hill. The conservative outlook recognizes America’s high ideals and our noble ventures, and thinking of our faults and mistakes second. Liberals, well, they dwell on any and every mistake the United States has made. A few days ago, at Ford’s Theater, I overheard a Park Ranger discussing almost everything except Lincoln, and it was soon clear that he was extremely liberal. He kept getting back to the idea that this country was “stolen” from the Native Americans. Normally I would have confronted him, and inquired if that meant the entire world was stolen. Did the Normans steal England from the Saxons? Did the Roman’s steal all of Europe from the savages? I was in a rush, otherwise I would have confronted his logic, or lack thereof.
It extends to daily life, and the way conservative’s approach everyday life. PJ O’Rourke once said the only person responsible for you is the person in your driver’s license picture. I think conservatives generally accept that as truth, where liberals believe the opposite; after all, isn’t society responsible for criminal behavior? Conservatives see that people are responsible for their triumphs and their failures. It makes failing very hard, since that means you are responsible for your failure, but it makes success all the sweeter. No one can take your success from you, because you know you have earned it. I moved to DC about a month ago, and it has presented me with numerous trials and tribulations. It has been hard, and I often wonder how someone could make it in life without looking towards a bright horizon, but therein may lie the democrat’s problem today. How can they or their electorate get excited about saying no to everything? How can you rally people around things that won’t be done? Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and yes, even Bill Clinton rallied people to a cause and towards a better tomorrow. John Kerry tried to rally people to his not being George W. Bush. That’s not a great cause to motivate people. Unfortunately for the democrats, it does not appear that a cause will appear for them. Today, they find themselves on the opposite side of Iraqi Freedom, optional individual Social Security accounts, banning gay marriage and partial birth abortion. Those are causes overwhelmingly supported by the American people, and causes the democrats are nothing but negative. It not enough to claim to be optimistic, you must live it. If you believe Roe v. Wade will be overturned, then live it and be positive. The same can be said of any issue and on almost any side of it. Life is too great a gift to spend it downplaying the possibilities.
Bush's New Budget Reaganesque.
The debate is heating up over President Bush's proposed budget.
Lawrence Kudlow points out the following facts:
"In aggregate terms, federal spending as a share of GDP is projected to trend around 19.5 percent. This is a historically low spending share of the economy. If it is maintained, then more resources will remain in private hands to foster entrepreneurship, new business creation, jobs, and wealth.
Critics say these numbers fail to include the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.
This argument has some degree of merit, as there will likely be a large military supplemental package for 2006. However, these costs are not "baseline" costs. That is, they do not become part of the military's recurring budget.
One of President Bush's directives for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is to make the military leaner and more efficient. Funding the military through supplementals keeps the military from permanently expanding to war-ready status, even after there is no war, and keeps on track the mission of transforming the military into an agile, 21st-century force.
Critics also say that cutting or limiting non-security discretionary spending is merely a drop in the bucket compared to entitlements and defense spending. They argue that Social Security reform will create a far greater deficit.
On entitlements, they are somewhat correct. Entitlement spending is by far the largest chunk of the U.S. budget, and it is the hardest part to tinker with. But Bush has made it a priority to tinker with it.
Taking on Social Security reform is not going to increase the deficit, it will reduce it from what it would have been without any reform. Real Social Security reform will prevent Social Security from growing out-of-control and swamping the Federal budget. It will move liabilities forward, so they are more manageable in the near future. It will put Social Security on the kind of self-sustaining path that FDR talked about in 1935:
"In the important field of security for our old people, it seems necessary to adopt three principles: First, noncontributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance. It is, of course, clear that for perhaps 30 years to come funds will have to be provided by the States and the Federal Government to meet these pensions. Second, compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations. Third, voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age. It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the old-age pension plan, which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."
Instead of crediting Bush for taking on the Social Security mess, critics try to paint his plan as increasing the deficit. In reality, one of the core reasons for Social Security reform is making the program less of a government obligation, less of a burden on the budget.
One editorial calling the President, "Mr. Fiscal Conservative - at last" notes:
"Bush has also proposed, as he has done before, eliminating or vastly reducing 150 federal programs, many of them with strong constituencies and powerful congressional backers. Already farmers (big cuts in farm subsidies), veterans groups (cuts in vets' drug benefits), mayors (cuts in community development aid), governors (cuts in Medicaid) and Amtrak supporters (cuts in operating subsidies) have geared up to thwart the president's plan."
Take it to the bank:
In fact, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, noting that the budget is a reflection of America's values, said:
"This document is immoral for what it does to those who can't defend themselves."
Reid, with his values schtick, is clearly responding to the exit polls from 2004 that showed "moral values" as a contributing factor in Bush's win. Reid's concern is obviously forced, and it's not working.
Take a wild guess at which organization has this article, titled "Count on Compound Interest," on its website:
"Many years ago, someone asked Albert Einstein what he thought was the human race's greatest invention. His reply?
Yep, how did you guess? The AARP:
They go on to describe the "Rule of 72:"
"How long will it take for your investment to double with compound interest? To find out, use the Rule of 72. Divide 72 by the interest rate you expect to receive on an investment. For example, if your investment earns 6 percent interest, your money will double in 12 years (72 divided by 6 equals 12)."
"The AARP advertises no fewer than 38 different stock and bond mutual-fund investments to their members. You can buy anything on their website from big-cap Dow stocks to emerging-market funds. If you want to 'gamble,' you can even buy Argentina — through the good offices of the AARP."
Not only that, but AARP, as an organization, is broadly and deeply invested in stocks and bonds.
Meanwhile, AARP vehemently opposes Social Security reform. Their ads say:
"If we wanted to gamble, we’d play the slots.”
They even have a little picture of dice on their website to indicate "gambling."
Why does AARP oppose reform?
-Because scaring seniors is good for AARP's business. Framing its fight as one on behalf of seniors against forces who want to take away entitlements is good for business.
-Because, with the current system, AARP is able to perpetually lobby for benefit increases. Reform the system, and AARP's lobbying efforts on Social Security are no longer required.
-Because it supported the Medicare Prescription Drug efforts of President Bush, which irritated Democrats in Washington. AARP is trying to get back in good favor with Democrats. Afterall, AARP has received over a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the years.
-Because AARP has always had a big-government agenda. It is a liberal-leaning organization.
A Roundup Of Classiness From Other Blogs
Thoughts on Social Security reform:
SocialSecurityChoice.com on "Ideological Differences" on the issue:
"The debate can be viewed as one between supporters of individualism and free market solutions and supporters of the welfare state."
Indeed, one reason to reform Social Security now is to stave off the kind of pension crisis most European countries, with their socialist-leaning welfare states, have faced. When most of your population depends on the government just to get by, your economy is not as efficient as it should be. In an increasingly integrated global economy, the United States needs to be as efficient. Prosperity will flow where the market is most free and fair. America needs to be that place.
Patrick Ruffini on Harry Reid's thin skin:
"It took Daschle sixteen months as Majority Leader to finally crack under pressure. One month later, he became the only man in history to see his Senate majority lost to an incumbent President in a midterm election.
Harry Reid had a chance to work across the aisle, to rescue the Democrats from their recent anti-reform spasms, but he has chosen instead to set up a "war room" staffed by Kerry campaign types and continue the Daschle ways.
Liberal whining about poor little Harry Reid, from the Political Animal blog:
"Remember Tom Daschle? Mild mannered senator from South Dakota. Had the misfortune of being Senate Minority Leader when George Bush took office. By all accounts, about as good a guy as you could hope to meet.
Lame. Tom Daschle just oozed fakeness. He was not a nice guy. Plus: he WAS the chief obstructionist in the country. Comparing Tom Daschle or Harry Reid to Mother Teresa? Good grief.
Dalythoughts.com takes on Social Security from a political strategy point of view:
"The last time I checked, Democrats can still introduce legislation. They may not have the votes, but they can introduce their own plans. If they are unified and can peel off some Republicans such as Lincoln Chaffee, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins, they might even be able to pass something. And if it does not pass, they will be able to point to their plans during the next election cycle. Why are they not doing so?
Democrats are earning their label as the "just say no" party.
Polipundit comments on the upcoming British elections, sarcastically:
"On May 5, 2005, a general election will likely be held in Great Britain. The Labor Party has a nine point lead over the Conservative Party, 41%-32%. In 2001, the Labor Party won 43%-31%. So as you can see, the Iraq War is defintely an albatross around Blair’s neck."
Journalists and pundits have counted Tony Blair out many times over the past couple of years. They, of course, were wrong. Why were they so wrong? Maybe because they hoped he would be punished for Iraq. They hoped so much to be right about Blair's downfall that they let it cloud their judgment.
WILLisms.com is planning a retrospective piece on just how wrong the media elites were regarding Tony Blair's political future, coming up around the time of the British elections, so stay tuned.
The Captain's Quarters Blog destroys the media-driven notion that Iraq will now become a theocracy under Shari'a law:
"Contrary to the desperate analyses from Western journalists that have appeared almost daily since the Iraqi elections, the most influential Shi'ite cleric does not want an imposition of Shari'a law. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani instead wants the government to follow parliamentary processes to codify a new direction for the world's newest democracy."
Again, the elite media REALLY want Iraq to become a democratically-elected theocracy. They hope/predict that Iran's government will gain great influence in Iraq. They hope that Bush's advance of freedom will mean the freedom to reject the U.S. and choose Islamic fundamentalism. They, of course, as usual, are wrong.
Powerline has the story on Ward Churchill's potential academic fraud:
"Churchill apparently has fabricated a story about the U.S. Army intentionally creating a smallpox epidemic among the Mandan tribe in 1837. Citing a paper by Thomas Brown of Lamar University, Campos reports that Churchill simply invented almost all of the story's most crucial facts, and then attributed these 'facts' to sources that say nothing of the kind.
This Churchill guy is really symbolic of what is wrong with higher education these days. What does he even contribute to academia? What does he contribute to society?
No Iowa, No "Yeeaaaarrrrgggggghhhh."
Say hello to the new DNC chairman, Howard Dean. It's a done deal. Tim Roemer has dropped out of the race. Unlike in Iowa, there is no surging rival left to challenge Dean. He has the votes wrapped up.
This is the man who, because he was too liberal, lost to John Kerry. Howard Dean is exactly the opposite of what Democrats need right now.
Dean recently said:
"I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for."
Does the new DNC chairman really hate free markets? Patriotism? Liberty? Reform? Progress? The United States Constitution?
What this proves is that Democrats are addicted to internet cash. It is their crack cocaine. As the base of the party shrinks, it becomes more concentratedly radical. Howard Dean will raise record amounts of money. He will keep the left-wing crazies stoked and prevent them from bolting to a third party. He will provide some Pyrrhic victories for Democrats.
He will also drive moderates away from the party and become a liability in Republican-leaning states. Howard Dean is bad for the DNC's fundamental image problem. He is bad for whatever Democrat (Hillary Clinton?) gets the 2008 nomination.
Dean is good, but only in some ways, for the GOP. In 2006, expect GOP candidates running for Senate in Republican-leaning states to play up their opponents' inevitable and unavoidable connections to Dean.
If Saddam Hussein had been captured a few weeks later, Howard Dean may have held off John Kerry and the others. Good news in Iraq was bad news for Howard Dean. Ultimately, because Dean hinges his success on the failure of America, he is bad for America.
Although the DNC vote is not official yet (the vote is this Saturday) it is certain.
What an unfortunate choice.
WILLisms.com will continue to keep tabs on Howard Dean, so stay tuned.
2006 Senate Races Promising For Republicans.
After the 2004 election, Republicans were elated to control 55 seats in the Senate. Afterall, 55 is better than 51, and it is much better than below 50.
But is 55 actually that much better than 51? The Senate's rules are such that unless there is a supermajority of 60 votes behind legislation, a minority can filibuster indefinitely. The minority essentially has veto power over anything, unless the majority is a supermajority.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has promised that he has 45 Senators lined up and ready to filibuster Social Security reform. Former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle learned the hard way that obstruction of a reform agenda is a sure ticket to retirement, particularly in a Republican-leaning state. Daschle lost to Republican John Thune for a variety of reasons, but the Wall Street Journal's persistent rebukes of Daschle's "Dead Zone" were an important factor:
Thus, although Republicans ostensibly control the executive and legislative branches of government, Republicans face a determined group of Democrats still reeling and discombobulated from the loss of their long-held majority party status. For whatever reason, the response of Senate Democrats has not been to adapt to the changing political climate. Their response has not been to offer their own reform agenda. No, their response has been to obstruct, obstruct, and obstruct some more, offering little or nothing in terms of a proactive agenda. Michael Barone calls this strategy, "just say no."
One lesson from 2004: Democrats living in Republican-leaning and Republican-trending states must be cognizant of, and try to avoid, a new verb in politics: being "Daschled."
Democrats seem to have learned almost nothing from recent elections. In fact, they seem to have learned the wrong lessons from history, as some Democrats feel that blocking Social Security reform is their ticket to regaining the Congress, a la Gingrich and other Republicans in 1994.
Democrats actually believe this. Seriously. How lame. How delusional.
In 2006, if they continue their current obstructionist streak, Democrats will not only not control Congress, it is possible that Republicans could control 60 seats in the Senate. Afterall, President Bush won 31 states, which computes to 62 Senators-worth. A Republican supermajority may seem like a dream (or nightmare, if you are a Democrat), but it is definitely attainable with the right strategy, if not in 2006, then in 2008 or 2010.
WILLisms.com believes the following seats are especially vulnerable for Democrats:
Minnesota: Mark Dayton.
North Dakota: Kent Conrad.
"Democrat Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota is up for re-election in 2006, and Bush apparently intends to do to him what was done to Sen. Tom Daschle in 2004 if Conrad doesn't fall into line. Conrad was rumored to be mulling retirement, but indications are now that he will run for re-election. The White House has targeted North Dakota's Republican Gov. John Hoeven to run against Conrad. Hoeven attended the State of the Union, then spent time with the President on Air Force One back to his home state. According to White House political sources and a staffer on the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), Hoeven's political future was discussed.
Nebraska: Ben Nelson.
Florida: Bill Nelson.
West Virginia: Robert Byrd.
"Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) is making preparations to run for reelection for what would be his ninth term.
If Byrd decides to retire, the West Virginia seat would be an easy pickup for Republicans; if he runs in 2006, he will have a slight-but decided edge due to his history of delivering pork for West Virginia. There is also no particularly strong Republican in West Virginia at this point.
Washington: Maria Cantwell.
Michigan: Debbie Stabenow.
Wisconsin: Herb Kohl.
New Mexico: Jeff Bingaman.
New Jersey: Jon Corzine.
Vermont is an odd case, as Jim Jeffords was elected in 2000 as a Republican, but he boneheadedly switched parties in early 2001. He is now an "independent" but caucuses with Democrats, the shrinking minority party. If he had remained a Republican, he would currently hold the chairmanship of a powerful committee, but he, like so many liberals in recent years, gravely misjudged the political winds in America. In 2006, Jeffords could conceivably lose to a Republican in a three-way race due to a split on the left, depending on how that race shapes up over the next year. There is no specific reason to be optimistic about a Republican pickup in Vermont, but it is not outside the realm of possibility.
The only true vulnerability in 2006 for Republicans is Rick Santorum's seat in Democrat-leaning Pennsylvania. Santorum will assuredly face tough competition for his seat from Bob Casey, Jr. For Democrats, defeating Rick Santorum, one of the more conservative members of the Senate, would be a priority. A 2006 Santorum loss would be heralded as somehow equivalent to the 2004 Tom Daschle loss; it would energize liberals, even if they finish 2006 with a net loss in the Senate.
A reasonable expectation for 2006, depending on retirements and other circumstances, would be a two or three seat pickup for Republicans. However, if the necessary chips fall into place, the GOP could pick up as many as 5 or 6 seats in 2006, which would give Republicans a filibuster-proof supermajority.
However, if Republicans control exactly 60 seats, it would lead to the distinct and likely possibility of a liberal Republican like Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island switching parties to give Democrats a chance to filibuster Republican initiatives. Republicans, therefore, should not be content with 55 or 58 or even 60 Senate seats. Over the next few elections, Republicans should aim for a Senate supermajority buffer zone of 61 or 62 seats. Before the end of 2010, this goal is very achievable.
Republicans, as coaches typically say, must take it one game at a time. One race at a time, one election cycle at a time. First thing's first, and for 2006, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Elizabeth Dole has a great opportunity to make real progress on the ultimate goal of a supermajority.
Last October, when Fidel Castro took a nasty fall, breaking multiple bones, there was renewed speculation among Cuba-watchers about the dictator's health. As former cigar-lover Fidel Castro pushes 80 years of age, one wonders how much longer he can physically maintain his grip on Cuba. One thing is certain: Castro is a survivor, outlasting many expert forecasts of his demise. However, as far as we know, he remains just a man. With each passing year, Castro's end becomes more certain.
William Ratliff, writing in The Hoover Digest, speculates about a post-Castro Cuba:
"Fidel Castro will leave Cuba in a terrible political and economic mess, just as Mao Zedong left China when he died in 1976, and Castro’s successors will be sorely taxed just to retain power."
"One might ask why reforms have not been launched already. The answer is that, although Fidel has visited China, he is far closer in his ideas and policies to Mao Zedong than to any Soviet leader, never mind any post-Mao Chinese leader. Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, and his often very strong criticism of China, was based almost entirely on his need for Soviet-bloc money, arms, and a nuclear shield during his conflict with the United States.
WILLisms.com looks forward to the day when Cuba and the United States, two free market societies, can mutually benefit. As freedom spreads around the globe, hope for a new Cuba after Castro is palpable. The Cuban people, deserve a free and open society; Cuba deserves to be the jewel of the Caribbean, the leader of the islands of Latin America.
As evidenced by the passing of Palestinian terrorist Yasser Arafat late last year, the death of a dictator presents real and important opportunities for progress, even in otherwise stagnant political waters.
President Bush noted in his State of the Union address,
"The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure. Tomorrow morning, Secretary of State Rice departs on a trip that will take her to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. She will discuss with them how we and our friends can help the Palestinian people end terror and build the institutions of a peaceful, independent, democratic state. To promote this democracy, I will ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic, and security reforms. The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is within reach -- and America will help them achieve that goal."
Indeed, Arafat's death has given the United States a distinct opportunity to start working on Middle East peace anew. Just today, Israeli and Palestinian leaders announced a "mutual cease-fire."
While Mr. Ratliff is skeptical about the likelihood of instant democracy in Cuba, he does note that,
"...under George W. Bush, the executive branch is promoting a more integrated and proactive involvement in the hope of speeding up and molding changes in the country. If current U.S. efforts to strengthen Cuban civil society succeed, perhaps at least in the post-Fidel period the current “silent majority” of Cubans, who up to now have been united only in their determination not to rock the political boat, will be able to advance the cause of democracy and free markets."
The speed with which the President is moving to support Palestinian civil society, post-Arafat, and transform the Middle East, is encouraging for a post-Castro Cuba.
Fox's American Dad Way Lame
Fox gave viewers a sneak-peek of the show following the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The reviews are in.
The pilot of Fox's American Dad was just plain bad. Awful. Not deserving of another episode. Unfunny. Way lame. A total miss.
Most nefarious of all, the disaster that was American Dad has the potential to sink, or at least soil, the much-anticipated return of Family Guy.
That American Dad was even allowed on the air is almost certainly a case of Family Guy overcompensation. National Review's Catherine Seipp explains that Family Guy,
"...was cancelled a couple of years later, and now — after a cult following that grew astonishingly after the show's DVD release [Seasons 1 & 2, Season 3] found an unexpectedly large audience — returns to Fox with new episodes in May. This is really rather a remarkable situation; as far as I know the first time that a cancelled show has been revived years after its demise."
Apparently, creator Seth McFarlane milked Fox's poor judgment in cancelling Family Guy all the way to a shot at a new series. The Fox people, feeling stupid for failing to see the genius in Family Guy, okayed the pilot for American Dad despite its obvious shortcomings. The intensity of Family Guy's grassroots following is remarkable, so Fox, fearing another misread of the viewing public, gave McFarlane's new idea the greenlight.
Call it contrition, call it penitance. Call it whatever you want.
That such an awful show could occupy a prime slot, just 30 minutes following the most-watched event of the year, is clearly a manifestation of Fox's remorse, an overcompensation for their past grievances.
"this show is awful"
"This show sucks so far. Not a single laugh."
"over/under on episodes before cancellation.... 4."
"'stuck up bin laden's pooper'
"this is a much weaker family guy. they should at least get new voices, not slight modifications of family guy characters."
"Alright, the Cartman Special Olympics is on Comedy Central. I'm done with American Dad."
"As I feared, I hate the fact that Family guy will get diluted by this crap."
"Hopefully American Dad will go the route of That 80's Show."
"American Dad was terrible. It was family guy lite but not funny."
"Another thumb down for American Dad."
"It was terrible. It was so bad that I got up to do the laundry halfway through. Everything in that show seemed really half-assed and not well-thought out. Poor."
"American Dad is terrible."
"I laughed at the dog being dragged down the street. Otherwise, I think it was more "did you see that" laughter with my friends than 'that was funny' laughter. In other words, had I been alone, I dont think it would have been funny."
"... is Family Guy Light."
"I thought the first 15 minutes was good. The 2nd 15 minutes however was some of the worst tv ever."
"it was horrible. The gold fish creeps me out. So no talking dog in this one, but an alien instead?!?"
"Watched it...It was a Family Guy knockoff, only one or two funny lines...the rest was lame, very lame. :("
"as a huge seth macfarlane fan, i had my reservations when they first started advertising this. those reservations were confirmed last night. baaaaad idea."
As Seipp notes, American Dad, "a kind of anti-Incredibles about a bungling midlevel CIA-operative... sinks under the weight of MacFarlane's political agenda."
While The Incredibles received some of the best reviews of any movie in 2004, raked in an array of awards, and earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars at the box office while subtly promoting conservative ideas, American Dad's tired left-wing drivel is a complete misread of the nation's mood. Expect it to fail in the ratings and get the axe from Fox.
Just one lame and blatantly partisan moment, likely hatched in late 2003 or early 2004, was a scene where President Bush and God talk on the telephone.
Television critic Mike Duffy, who describes American Dad as "mostly just a dud," describes the scene (the only moment he enjoyed):
"There is one cheerfully daft satiric moment when God puts in a call to President Bush in the Oval Office and asks him to cool references to the Almighty in his public pronouncements. 'Give you an example,' God tells Dubya. 'When you make comments like 'God wanted me to be president,' that would be something you ought to just keep to yourself.'"
Lame comedy is one thing, but stale lame comedy with a left-wing agenda is just too much.
Well, you may ask, could American Dad become a favorite among the anti-Bush left in America? Could it develop a cult following based exclusively on the legions of liberals in America?
Even the well-known lefties on www.hornfans.com hated American Dad.
Another lame moment, an attempt at homeland security satire:
Television critic Tim Appelo, calling American Dad "unsettling political" and a "flat-out disaster," describes the scene:
"The political satire throughout has that not-fresh feeling. 'We're at Terror Alert Orange, which means something might go down somewhere in some way at some point in time!' warns Stan. 'You know, Dad, it's great that you and your CIA buddies have created a fun little system to keep the masses paralyzed in fear,' retorts Hayley."
Those lines were so not funny. Two years ago.
Not only is the show unfunny and too partisan, but the characters are all thoroughly unlikeable. The father, himself awkwardly paranoid, pats down his liberal daughter, whom he clearly dislikes, for weapons whenever she enters the house. The mother is blank, cold--- sort of a horrible, unfeeling, Republican caricature of a Stepford Wife. The son has almost no redeeming qualities. The family's overweight, effeminate "pet" alien and German-accented fish fall far short of providing any significant or show-saving gags. The characters are one-dimensional, and the single dimension in each case does not elicit any kind of sympathy.
The next episode does not air until May 1. Don't expect it to last to summer.
Introducing Guest Blogger Duncan Wilson.
WILLisms.com adds a new guest blogger this weekend, Duncan Wilson.
Duncan has a sharp political mind and a quick wit; has has a lot of great things to say about the world. Duncan's classiness is unquestioned, so WILLisms.com is a perfect fit for him. In fact, he may even class up the joint a little.
Duncan is a big fan of Ronald Reagan. He currently resides in the town Reagan loved to ridicule, Washington, D.C.
WILLisms.com looks forward to his comments.
The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation.
Was 2004 a realigning election? Did it mark a fundamental shift in American politics?
A new book, The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation, details the lasting significance of the 1994 Congressional elections in policy and politics.
Major Garrett, Fox News reporter, argues that 2004 was not an electoral realignment. 1994 was. 2004 was just the continuation of the Republican Revolution of 1994, a major political shift that has been largely downplayed and marginalized because of Clinton's reelection victory just two years later over Bob Dole, and because of the perception that America was an evenly divided nation.
Garrett writes (you can read the first chapter online):
"The America we live in now is a reflection in more ways of the 104th Congress than it is of the presidencies of Bill Clinton or George W. Bush. Indeed, that Congress radically altered the political course of Clinton’s presidency and laid the intellectual and political foundation for Bush’s. The presidents might have signed the laws, but the 104th Congress either proposed those laws directly or set in motion the process by which they became law. Many policies now part of the fabric of American life drew their intellectual inspiration and political impetus from the leaders and members of that first GOP majority elected in 1994."
George W. Bush might not be president today if it were not for the 1994 Republican Revolution. Running against a popular incumbent for Governor of Texas, Bush faced an uphill climb. In some ways, Bush's victory in 1994 was part and parcel of the GOP's Congressional takeover. As Newt Gingrich was sworn in as the first Republican Speaker of the House in decades, George W. Bush was sworn in as only the second Republican Governor of Texas since the 1870s.
Newt Gingrich, recent author of Winning The Future: A 21st Century Contract with America, remains an influential strategist. More importantly, many of the Republicans who won elections to the House of Representatives for the first time in 1994 are now in positions of seniority or have moved on to become governors or members of the Senate.
One item in particular from the GOP revolution that WILLisms.com would like to see revived is the line item veto. This measure would allow a president to effectively trim wasteful spending out of an otherwise acceptable piece of legislation. The Supreme Court, in 1998, declared the line item veto unconstitutional, but a line item veto structured in another way could still pass Constitutional muster. Additionally, ailing Chief Justice William Rehnquist was among those against the line item veto; replacing him with a Justice who favors the idea could lead to the line item veto being upheld by the court.
The 1994 election initiated a political realignment in America; the 2004 just may have sealed the deal. A successful second term for President Bush, and the realignment could last for a generation. The 1994 Republican Revolution endures.
Reform Thursday: Social Security, Chart One.
Thursdays are good days for reform, because they fall between Wednesdays and Fridays.
Today's graphic comes to us from the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) of Congress:
Click on chart for full-size chart (it's a .pdf):
Tune into WILLisms.com each Thursday for more important supporting data on Social Security reform.
The SOTUOTPOTUSOA (State of the Union of the President of the United States of America)
The speech, in its entirety:
Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, fellow citizens:
Is Iraq George W. Bush's Vietnam?
Ted Kennedy, "spiritual" leader of Democrats, over the past year, has repeatedly called Iraq a "quagmire," arguing that it is "George Bush's Vietnam."
"There it was again, across half a page of the New York Times last Saturday, just as Iraqis and Kurds were nerving themselves to vote. 'Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam.' The basis for the story, which featured a number of experts as lugubrious as they were imprecise, was the suggestion that South Vietnam had held an election in September 1967, and that this propaganda event had not staved off ultimate disaster."
Hitchens, who was prominently against the Vietnam War, explains,
"...the principles of the antiwar movement of that epoch still mean a good deal to me. That's why I retch every time I hear these principles recycled, by narrow minds or in a shallow manner, in order to pass off third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism. But one must also be capable of being offended objectively. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It's no good. It's a stiff. It's passed on. It has ceased to be. It's joined the choir invisible. It's turned up its toes. It's gone. It's an ex-analogy."
One tactic of the left on Iraq is to invoke the same arguments that worked in the early 1970s, a strategy that works to a degree today because of the lasting scar of Vietnam.
Much of the Baby Boomer generation has Vietnam-paralysis on national security issues, a kind of post traumatic stress syndrome; Democrats, using the same playbook they used against Nixon, have, over the past year, been rather effective at exploiting latent feelings of unease about war.
Fortunately for the people of Iraq, for the security of the United States, and for the future of freedom in the world, there is a political ceiling of support for that kind of defeatism.
In Iraq, there is tangible progress, and once enough Iraqis are trained to maintain stability, the United States will gladly leave. America did not conquer Iraq for glory or to plunder its resources, afterall.
The Iraqi people do not support the insurgency on any kind of widespread basis. As Hitchens points out, "Iraq and Vietnam have nothing whatsoever in common." Back home in America, however, there are some startling similarities between Vietnam and Iraq that could ultimately undermine Iraq's transformation into a free and democratic society.
Sunday's election was an important step toward, not the culmination of, freedom in Iraq. There is still much work to do. But nobody should underestimate the power that election will have in Iraq, in America, and around the world.
Liberal columnist Mark Brown even wonders now, "What if Bush has been right about Iraq all along?"
"Maybe the United States really can establish a peaceable democratic government in Iraq, and if so, that would be worth something.
President Bush, over the long run, has a real opportunity to prove the critics wrong. Because of the success of the recent election in Iraq, tonight's State of the Union address will provide the President a chance to bring some of his skeptics home.
Stay tuned to WILLisms.com for more on the State of the Union.
"All I can say for certain is that I am no longer capable of being shocked by the Left's and the mainstream media's capacity to shove pegs of any shape into the round hole of Vietnam. A recent New York Times headline blared, 'Flashback to the '60s: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam.' A cursory search of the Nexis-Lexis database shows that the words Iraq and Vietnam have appeared together nearly 800 articles in the last year — and that's just in the New York Times. The Washington Post: 764. The LA Times: 683. The Chicago Tribune: 526. Time magazine, a weekly publication, ran more articles mentioning Vietnam and Iraq (70) than it put out issues in the last year, and that doesn't even include letters to the editor.
The Silence of the Donkeys.
Sunday's election in Iraq could mark the beginning of a new era in the Middle East. The stunning success of the Iraqi election has left some prominent liberals speechless, thus far.
"Skeptics of President Bush's attempt to bring democracy to Iraq have been largely silent since Iraqis enthusiastically turned out for Sunday's elections."
On George Soros:
'To claim that we are invading Iraq for the sake of establishing democracy is a sham, and the rest of the world sees it as such," Mr. Soros said in a Washington speech in March 2003, adding that "the trouble goes much deeper.'
Someone needs to shake some sense in George Soros, because his heart is likely in the right place, desiring democracy for the entire world; his mind, however, is clouded by conspiracy theories and hatred for President Bush. Soros must bring himself to admit that Bush is not wantonly waging war for empire or revenge, and he must realize that Bush is nothing like Adolph Hitler.
On Jimmy Carter:
"Asked whether the Carter Center had a comment on the election, spokeswoman Kay Torrance said: 'We wouldn't have any 'yea' or 'nay' statement on Iraq.'
Iraq is fortunate the Carter Institute opted not to monitor its elections, given Carter's aptitude for overlooking major electoral fraud and eagerly blessing questionable election results. The worst president of the 20th century has unfortunately become the worst ex-president, as well.
"There has been no comment since the Iraq elections from Mr. Moore, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker who characterized the Iraqi insurgents as 'Minutemen,' and predicted 'they will win.'
Michael Moore wants America to fail, because it would at least partially validate his bizarre anti-American, terrorist-cheering propaganda.
Coming soon, WILLisms.com will have more on the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam.
Dean Next DNC Chair?
Stay tuned, as WILLisms.com will continue to follow this story.
The story of Victor Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine is pretty well known by now, especially on WILLisms.com, but the story behind the story is even more amazing. Today, via Instapundit, I learned of the secret weapon that kept hundreds of disgruntled coal miners from breaking up the demonstrators and delaying the elections further. The weapon? Vodka, and lots of it.
"Eastern Ukraine is heavily ethnic Russian. The main industry is coal. The miners are rough, tough, and hate Yushchenko for wanting to take Ukraine away from Russia and toward the West," writes Wheeler. "It was arranged for more than a thousand of them to be taken from Donetsk, the capital of the coal-mining region, by bus and train to Kiev, where, armed with clubs and blunt tools, they would physically beat up the Orange Revolutionaries. Such mass violence was not only to disperse the demonstrators but serve as an excuse for the government to declare martial law, suspending the Ukrainian Parliament (the Rada) and elections indefinitely."
If this story is true, mark it up as one more amazing behind-the-scenes scenarios that was pulled off in order to ensure "the culmination of Ukraine's non-violent, democratic revolution."
But the vodka-thwarting isn’t the only amazing story to come out in the months since the Orange Revolution. The New York Times ran this story in January about how a power struggle in Ukraine’s Intelligence service played out during the Orange Revolution and altered the nation’s path.
Ukraine, Jan. 16 - As protests here against a rigged presidential election overwhelmed the capital last fall, an alarm sounded at Interior Ministry bases outside the city. It was just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 28.
The stories that are now coming out about Yushchenko's election and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine are, to quote a favorite saying around here, "way unlame."
The First Casualty of Mayor Bill White's "Safe Clear" Towing Program.
When Bill White, a prominent Democrat, former chairman of the state party, first became Mayor of Houston, Texas, in 2003, he was the city's Golden Boy. A media darling, he spearheaded efforts to fix the bloated city employee pension system that endeared him even to Republicans. Speculation that he would run for statewide office spread like wildfire in political circles, and frankly, given his political acumen, the speculation was warranted. He seemed like a pro-growth fiscal conservative, if only because the comparison point was his inept and liberal predecessor Lee Brown.
Mayor White frittered away whatever political capital he had the day he announced his "Safe Clear" program, essentially a city-run towing racket. People hate tow trucks, for they resemble those vile creatures of the sky, the vultures, lurking, ready to swoop down on unsuspecting, vulnerable prey. Put tow trucks together with a government program, and you have a guaranteed loser.
Basically, the "Safe Clear" program pronounced that any vehicle stranded on Houston's freeways would receive a mandatory tow, within minutes, from a city-approved tow truck. The aim: to eliminate rubbernecking, ease traffic congestion, and keep traffic flowing. It made some sense, considering the lost productivity Houstonians endure sitting in traffic.
"• How does it work? Police get a report of a stranded motorist, authorize a tow in person or by phone from Houston TranStar, and call a tow truck from a company assigned to that segment of freeway. A tow truck driver who spots the problem first will call police for permission to tow.
Clearly, there are just an amazing array of problems inherent in the program's design. One can just imagine the sticky situations the program poses, such as an angry and suspicious motorist, who may have never heard of the program, assaulting an overzealous wrecker-driver. Imagine knowing nothing about the program, when, within minutes and out of nowhere, a tow truck hooks your car up and starts to drive away. One could easily assume the tow truck driver is actually a sophisticated thief. Popping a cap in the tow truck driver would not be all that far-fetched for some people in that situation.
The plan, for many reasons, was immediately and intensely unpopular with influential Houstonians, so Bill White went back to the drawing board, intent on saving his program, focused on saving face. Citing the potential unfairness to the poor, White announced tweaks to the program's design.
Houston City Council member Sekula-Gibbs commented on White's reforms in a Houston Chronicle op-ed:
One can only imagine the price tag for the subsidized towing each year. White has said the reimbursed towing would cost the city about $300,000 a year, but Anne O'Ryan of the Texas AAA believes the cost would be more than $600,000 a year. WILLisms.com understands these figures mean the program, being a government boondoggle, would likely cost at least 2 or 3 million dollars each year.
The City of Houston licenses roughly 250 drivers under the program, with 11 towing companies receiving exclusive rights to tow vehicles, at will, from freeways. Tow-truck drivers who are not part of the Safe Clear program can be fined $750 if they tow vehicles from one of Houston's freeways.
The program elicited vocal opposition from LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), as well as the Houston Professional Towing Association, which together "claim to have collected 20,000 signatures from people who say the ordinance unfairly hurts low-income drivers and small wrecker companies," the Houston Chronicle reported last week.
The program hit even more trouble when Houston CBS affiliate KHOU reported that 32 of the wrecker drivers licensed by the city had criminal records. Those drivers were subsequently suspended, but their involvement in the program raised significant questions about the program's safety.
Additionally, WILLisms.com has unscientifically tracked the congestion levels on Houston's freeways over the past few weeks and concluded that the program does not even relieve traffic, thus in its primary mission, it has failed.
Monday night, the Safe Clear took its first casualty, the Houston Chronicle reports [Because the Houston Chronicle is awful at archiving articles, WILLisms.com will reproduce the entire article here for posterity]:
"Moments after a Safe Clear tow truck pulled up to her disabled van Monday night, a stranded motorist was hit by several cars as she attempted to run across the East Freeway.
WILLisms.com certainly does not recommend darting across traffic to anyone, and the woman must assume some level of personal responsibility for her misguided and tragic action, but it seems pretty clear the Safe Clear program, less than a month after its inception, at least indirectly, led to the death of a motorist.
The Houston Chronicle article above omits out some eye-witness statements WILLisms.com observed on KHOU's late evening newscast. From the comments of the witnesses, it seems clear that she acted without lucid thought, responding reflexively to a wrecker towing her van without her consent. Witnesses said she had retrieved a can of gas, likely because her car was merely out of fuel, an easy fix. When she saw the truck swoop in on her vehicle, she likely wanted to prove to the driver that she did not need the tow. Her heart must have raced, her body filled with adrenaline, perhaps overwhelmed with anger and desperation. Failing to properly estimate the speed of traffic, her mind clouded by emotion, she made a run for it.
Maybe she knew about the rules of the Safe Clear program and wanted to beat the clock. Maybe she had never heard of the program and was simply trying to protect her property from what she believed was some kind of underhanded tow-truck scam. Maybe she simply that knew she could not afford the tow, especially when all her car needed was a little bit of unleaded gasoline to get it running again.
Whatever the reason for her calamitous and ill-fated action, it is clear that Bill White's Safe Clear program is at least partially responsible; this is not to say that Mayor White is personally responsible, nor should he feel guilty for Monday's tragic death. However, if he fails to rescind the program, he will have to answer some tough questions when these incidents occur in the future. This kind of heartbreaking event is precisely what one would imagine happening on a regular basis: people acting irrationally, lashing out at the predatory tow trucks, making poor choices based on frustration. For this and many other reasons, for the safety of Houston freeway drivers and fiscal sanity of the City of Houston, the program must be scrapped immediately.
From a purely political standpoint, Mayor White should not stick with such an unpopular program. He likely wants to see it succeed, because if the program is scrapped, it will appear to be a political defeat. The mayor should not think that way; this program, if he stubbornly clings to it much longer, will be the ruin of his political career. WILLisms.com has this bit of advice for Mayor White:
Rip it off like a band-aid. Just be done with it. We'll all pretend the Safe Clear program never happened.
The City Council takes up the issue again soon, and WILLisms.com will follow the story, so stay tuned.
UPDATE: bloghouston.net has more on this story:
"After a month of $AFEclear, we now know that its funding mechanism was built on unfair assumptions that nonetheless amounted to yet another 'revenue stream' for Mayor White, that wrecker drivers with criminal records have been a part of it (despite assurances to the contrary from the mayor's office), and that misunderstanding over the six-minute rule and fear of losing her vehicle have now contributed to some extent to a woman's death. And those are just the major problems.
Also, bloghouston notes:
"Initial news reports misreported the gender of the victim. Updates indicate that the motorist who was killed was a 72-year-old man, Lawrence Kahng. Our condolences go out to the family."
UPDATE TWO, from bloghouston.net:
"Another report indicates that Kahng was 77."
The initial reporting on this story has clearly been spotty, so this will be the last update for now, until the facts of the story stabilize; WILLisms.com will continue to follow the Safe Clear program, so stay tuned.
Kerrey Tries Talking Sense To Kerry (And Other Democrats) On Social Security.
In this morning's Wall Street Journal, former Nebraska Senator and lifelong Democrat Bob Kerrey urges Democrats to stop being so lame on Social Security.
"The late Pat Moynihan used to joke when I asked him why liberals were so reluctant to consider changing Social Security so that it guaranteed wealth as well as income: 'It's because they worry that wealth will turn Democrats into Republicans.'"
The diminution of FDR's legacy, the enhancement of GWB's--- this is unacceptable for liberals. Democrats know that individuals vested in the stock market, even just a little bit, tend to vote for pro-growth, free market policies. Republicans just happen to advocate these kinds of policies more often than Democrats.
When someone owns stock, he cheers, rather than feeling indifferent or bitter, when he sees green on CNBC.
Part of the rise of the Republican party in recent years is that more households own stock than ever before. Grover Norquist noted in September 2004 that,
"In 1980, only 20 percent of adults owned stocks in mutual funds, 40lks, IRAs and direct contribution pensions. Today, that number is over 60 percent and growing."
These individuals have a direct financial interest in how the market performs. Norquist also pointed to emperical polling research on the issue:
"...if you own $5000 in stock you are 18 percent less likely to be a Democrat and more likely to be a Republican. Every demographic group, including race, gender, age, and income, becomes more Republican with stock ownership."
Kerrey (remember, he's a prominent Democrat) contends,
"...liberals are wrong to fear that President Bush's proposal represents a threat to Social Security.
Exactly! Social Security reform, as President Bush sees it, is not some big-money giveaway for the rich. On the contrary, the President's call for personal accounts in Social Security is an invitation to the world of capitalism for those currently left behind. Social Security reform, as WILLisms.com noted before, has an opportunity to help the poorest Americans earn and own a piece of the pie, then pass it on to future generations.
Bob Kerrey even deigns to use the "C" word, noting this specific point of crisis:
"...in eight years [emphasis added by WILLisms.com] the income from a 12.4% payroll tax will be insufficient to pay the old age, survivor and disability benefits owed at that time."
Eight years. That's soon. Doing nothing is not a viable option.
Kerry offers a few constructive alternatives for liberals to add to the discussion, but warns Democrats what will happen if "liberals merely shout 'hell no, we won't go.'"
"The best they can hope for with that strategy is to prevent reform from happening. They should feel no pride of accomplishment if that is the result."
Not only would Democrats feel no pride of accomplishment, blocking Social Security reform would unravel their party even further. Americans like reformers. They like pragmatists. They like Congress to fix problems before they become crises. Americans abhor obstructionists. They abandon parties with no positive agenda.
Will Democrats continue down the suicidal path of blocking Social Security reform? Honestly, they don't have many other options. The Democrats' pervasive ideology, socialism, increasingly discredited, is decaying. One could argue: if they don't fight for socialism, what is the point of having a party?
Dissent for the sake of dissent? One could make that argument. The liberal hemisphere of the blogosphere gets itself worked up into a tizzy when anyone suggests that there ought to be de facto curbs on filibusters and understood limits to dissent.
A minority party acting as "loyal opposition" to the majority party is good and entirely necessary, but not when the dissent becomes so wild and angry that it harms the good of the nation. Dissent is patriotic, but not for its own sake; Democrats persistently blocking the will of the majority can only lead to an eventual permanent supermajority for the GOP.
WILLisms.com offers this bit of constructive advice to Democrats:
And to the liberal bloggers:
In short, Democrats, listen to Bob Kerrey, or you will be sorry.
WILLisms.com will continue to follow the Social Security debate, so stay tuned.